Fidel Castro to “gladly” meet Benedict XVI
Havana (AsiaNews) - Fidel Castro will "gladly" receive Benedict
XVI today in Havana, the last day of the pontiff's presence in Cuba in an
article signed by him and published on the official website CubaDebate.cu, the
"writes:" I will be happy to meet with His Excellency Pope Benedict
XVI, as I did in 1998 with John Paul II: a man in whom contact with children
and humble citizens invariably aroused feelings of affection". The 85
year old former Cuban president, ill for several years, explains that he
decided to ask the pope for "a few minutes of his time which is so
overburdened with commitments" after learning from Foreign Minister Bruno
Rodriguez, that the distinguished guest would "enjoy a modest and simple conversation. "
The wait for a meeting between Fidel Castro and Pope Benedict XVI has dominated the pope's trip. Many expected that this meeting would take place yesterday, when the pontiff visited Raul Castro, brother of former dictator in the presidential palace. The visit was defined as an encounter with "the president and his family."
In the meeting with Raul Castro, lasting 55 minutes, nearly twice that of a normal meeting with a Heads of State, the Pope asked that Good Friday be considered a public holiday to allow Christians to celebrate the day of the Passion of Jesus The director of the Vatican Press, Fr. Federico Lombardi, said the government responded that t will consider the request. In 1998, at John Paul II's request, the Cuban authorities decided to make December 25th, Christmas Day, a civic celebration.
According to Fr. Lombardi, the pope also made some "humanitarian requests", perhaps referring to the questions related to the imprisonment of many political dissidents for whom the Cuban Church has often been a mediator for their release.
At the beginning of his trip, Benedict XVI said that the Marxist ideology "does not respond to reality" and he assured that the Church is not a political party, but wants to help "in a spirit of dialogue" to give life to a more just society. "
The Pope, with great kindness and spiritual emphases, has always suggested steps for change, based on respect for man, on his religious freedom, leaving space to the contribution of the Christian faith in society and reconciliation.
But Marino Murillo, vice president and head of the economy in government, immediately quashed any doubts: "There will be no political reforms in Cuba".