A Church Reborn | Sojourners

A Church Reborn

The Catholic Church in Cuba, reduced to a shadow of its former place in society, at least has its own Web page. Introducing the page is not a scriptural text or a quote from Pope John Paul, but a line from Gandhi: "Truth is more important than peace, for the lie is the mother of violence."

On the pope’s flight to Cuba earlier this year, he was asked what he expected to hear from President Fidel Castro. The truth, he said, and the posters that seemed to be everywhere proclaimed him the "messenger of truth and hope."

It’s doubtful that he heard the truth from Castro, at least in public. In Castro’s "welcome" of the pope, the Cuban leader gave a jarring, almost childish review of the "great sins" of the Christian West—everything from the Inquisition to the despoliation of this hemisphere. Some would argue that Castro laid out some truths that the church should not be allowed to forget. But it stretches the point to argue that the distorted and hypocritical welcome was an exercise in truth-telling. More likely Castro was assuring his base that inviting the pope to visit didn’t mean he had gone completely soft.

But party hard-liners may still be working on their cost-benefit analysis. The more or less official government position is that the visit was an unqualified success. Since most of the U.S. media focused (it’s fair to say excessively) on the pope’s criticism of U.S. policy, especially the embargo, Cuba clearly won a PR advantage, at least abroad. But something has been unleashed in the Cuban spirit that cannot be comforting to those of the party faithful who may still dream of a socialist paradise.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 1998
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