Cardinal Denies Asking For Castro Repentance
Apr 12, 2005
Cardinal Rosalio Castillo Lara, a Vatican official born in Venezuela, today denied have asked the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro to "repent" for the repression of the Catholic Church under his Cuban regime.
Vatican (CWN, Jan. 07, 1997) -- On January 3, the Italian daily La Reppublica published an interview with Cardinal Castillo Lara, in which the prelate issued a powerful indictment of the Cuban leader: "It is good that Fidel Castro knows that the Church will not easily forget all his bad actions... The 'maximum leader' should make a 'mea culpa,' solemn and sincere, for all the evil he has done to the people of Cuba and to the Church through his Communist dictatorship. Fidel Castro should not think that a visit to the Vatican, and the reopening of the island to missionaries and priests, is enough to erase the memory of thirty years of repression... The visit by John Paul II does not mean that the Church has forgotten the past."
However, four days after that quotation appeared, Cardinal Castillo Lara made it known, through a statement issued by the Vatican press office, that his talk with La Reppublica had not been an interview, but merely a telephone conversation, and that he had never asked for Castro to express his public repentance. The cardinal insisted that he had only told the Italian newspaper that the papal visit to Cuba would be a visit to the "local Church."
Meanwhile, yesterday La Reppublica fanned the flames of controversy by publishing an interview with Father Giulio Girardi, a Salesian priest who is well known for his defense of liberation theology. Father Girardi professed his indignation over the statement attributed to Cardinal Castillo Lara, which he said carried "the one of the grand Inquisition." The Salesian priest complained, "What hurts me the most is that the Cuban regime is considered 100 times worse than the Pinochet regime; that is unacceptable."
The dispute in La Reppublica, and the belated denial by Cardinal Castillo Lara, illustrates a real debate within the walls of the Vatican. While Pope John Paul's visit to Cuba has now officially been confirmed for January 1998, there remains a lively discussion over the Church's attitude toward the Castro regime. Some Vatican officials are quietly criticizing others for having accepted an invitation to dine with Castro while the Cuban leader was in Rome; they insist that Church officials should keep their distance from a man who has been responsible for severe repression of Catholicism.
Other Vatican officials insist that they must work with the Castro regime in order to obtain the concessions necessary to invigorate the life of the Church in Cuba. Those concessions will not come, they argue, if the Church maintains a hostile posture.
Thus, the Vatican debate on Cuba has reproduced the familiar debate over the "ostpolitik" approach to the old Soviet regime. On one side stand the prelates who believe that dialogue is a necessity, as a means of gaining concessions for the Church. On the other side stand those who insist that the Church must maintain her steadfast opposition to unjust regimes.