Cuba’s Fidel Castro has paid tribute to the Pope, venturing inside Havana Cathedral for only the second time since the 1959 revolution. During the mass a Vatican representative repeated John Paul’s last message to Cuba, calling for a dialogue among all groups that make up the Cuban people.
Wearing a suit instead of his trademark uniform, Castro thanked the late pontiff for condemning the United States’ sanctions against Communist Cuba as “ethically unacceptable” during his historic visit to the island in 1998.
Earlier Castro and his younger brother signed a book of condolences, describing him as an “enemy of war and a friend of the poor”. He wrote: “The efforts of those who wanted to use your prestige and enormous spiritual authority against the just cause of our people in their fight against the gigantic empire were in vain.”
Atheism was officially dropped in Cuba in 1992 and Christmas was reinstated as a holiday in 1997, a month before the Pope’s visit.