Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Pope Francis Gives Anti-Castro Book to Fidel

Or How a "Devious" Vatican Official Made a (Bigger) Fool of Good Pope Francis

The pope knows little or nothing about Cuban history. This has allowed the Castro regime to manipulate him in a thousand different ways. It has also permitted a daring and ingenious Vatican official (anonymous and likely to remain so) to introduce a discordant note in the pope's hitherto uninterrupted hallelujah chorus for Fidel Castro and his revolution. Whoever pulled this stunt deserves to reign in Francis' stead, for he is a worthier candidate in every way for the papacy.

The pope, for some as yet unexplained reason, visited the home of Cuba's retired dictator, an honor which his predecessor Benedict XVI also conferred on Fidel Castro. No previous travelling pope has ever visited the residence of a former head of state who is now no more than a private citizen. Moreover, Francis treated Fidel as if he were still his country's head of state, even exchanging gifts with him.

Among several insipid works which he himself authored, Francis gave the dictator a copy of the autobiography of Fidel's erstwhile spiritual adviser Father Armando (or Amando) Llorente, S.J. and two CDs of his prayers and songs. Although only ten years older than Fidel, Llorente was perhaps the greatest influence in the adolescent Fidel's life, part father and part older brother: the first man, as Llorente claimed, who loved that unhappy and neglected child. At Havana's elite Belén Preparatory School where the novice Jesuit was Fidel's teacher, mentor and greatest booster, the two were inseparable. Llorente took Fidel with him on camping trips to the Sierra Maestra mountains where they explored together every trail and passage of what would later become the base of operations (or hideout) of the Rebel Army. Years later, supposedly at the request of the papal nuncio in Havana, Llorente visited Fidel at the rebel camp for two weeks and came away with the impression that the man who wore a crucifix around his neck had lost his faith. Still, he said nothing and continued to support his former pupil until the day in 1961 when Llorente was expelled from Cuba with a thousand other Spanish-born priests and nuns on a ship sent by Franco to retrieve them. He spent the rest of his life in Miami praying for Fidel's return to the Church and ready at any moment's notice to fly to Havana to hear his confession and absolve him of his sins. Father Llorente died at age 92 in 2010 with his fondest wish unfulfilled.

The gift of Llorente's book and recordings of his voice was the gentlest of jabs, but still a jab at Fidel Castro. No man likes to be reminded of his own ingratitude, and the most ungrateful of men like it the least. Fidel alone knows now what was the nature of their relationship. Assuming that it was not what we are all assuming, then he might well feel regret if he had conscience, which psychopaths don't.

Still, I do not believe that this was a calculated slight. In fact, I am quite sure that it was entirely unintentional (certainly on the part of the pope). Indeed, Francis may have already apologized for his presumption. Far be it for him to inflict the least discomfort to a man whom he admires for his "contributions to world peace."

But whoever recommended to Francis that he give Fidel these "reliques" from Llorente was not so innocent. That man actually had a brain and moral convictions. A good thing for him that the Inquisition has been abolished.

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