We’ve all had a good laugh at the pathetic and obsequious statement that Canadian PM
Pajama Boy Justin Trudeau issued in praise of Fidel Castro, but I can’t let these official remarks by the most powerful church leader in the Orthodox world pass unnoticed.
Patriarch Kirill, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, sent this statement to Raul Castro:
I learned of the death of your older brother, Fidel Castro Ruz, with deep sorrow. I express to you, to the families and relatives of the deceased, as well as all the people of Cuba, my sincere condolences. Comandante Fidel was one of the most famous and prominent public figures of our time, he won international prestige, and he was a legend even during his own lifetime. As the embodiment of the Cuban people, he expended all his strength to attain his country’s genuine independence to ensure that it took its rightful place in the global family of nations. The Russian Orthodox Church will always say Fidel Castro’s name with respect and gratitude. With his personal involvement, we erected a parish church in Havana dedicated to the Wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God “of Kazan” , and Fidel, in his own words, made himself the “building inspector”. I have fond memories of my meetings with Comandante Fidel. the scale and acuteness of his mind always amazed me, as did his ability to speak with knowledge on a variety of topics. Our last conversation took place on 13 February of this year at his home, the day after my meeting with Pope Francis. In my heart, I’ll always enshrine a good memory of this courageous and charismatic person, a man who was a sincere friend of the Russian Orthodox Church. In these mournful days, may the Lord bestow upon you and the whole family of Comandante Fidel Castro solace and composure to carry on.
Shame. Shame! These passages, from the autobiography of Armando Valladares, a Cuban dissident who spent 22 years in Castro’s gulag, gives you a better idea of the spiritual and moral qualities of Castro’s rule than anything the Russian patriarch has to say:
The book is called Against All Hope. The author, again, is Armando Valladares, who would have been set free if he had simply said, “I’m with Castro.” But he did not. Instead, he spent 22 years in that jail. When he was released, he still had his honor — a quality rarer among Christians than it ought to be, it would appear.
Valladares also recalls the story of Monsignor Cesare Zacchi, the papal nuncio (that is, Vatican ambassador) in Cuba from 1962-1975. Zacchi, consecrated a bishop in 1967, became great friends with Fidel Castro, and publicly praised the Cuban revolution for achieving “social justice.” From Valladares’ book:
Father Miguel Angel Loredo was a Catholic priest Valladares knew in prison. He says that Father Loredo was brutally beaten and humiliated by the prison guards. More:
The voices of the confessors and martyrs will be remembered, not the voices of the powerful within the church’s bureaucracy who curry favor with her persecutors.
UPDATE: Look, I live in the real world. I know perfectly well that clergy are often required by circumstances to speak well of the dead, even when the dead have not lived as saints. And I know Christian history is full of popes, patriarchs, archbishops and metropolitans praising thugs in purple. One hardly expects the sitting Moscow patriarch to speak prophetically about the true character of Stalin upon his passing. That said, there was nothing to be gained by the patriarch finding no words at all for the victims of Castro, who was an atheist and an unrepentant disciple of the demonic secular ideology that murdered countless Russians, Christians and otherwise. He did it because he meant it. As for Msgr Zacchi, it is one thing for a Cuban bishop to find the courage to speak out against persecution, but it shouldn’t be hard at all for an Italian ambassador from the Vatican to do so. What did he have to lose (besides access to a new Alfa Romeo and the pleasure of Fidel’s company)?
Plus, I hasten to say, the church — whether it’s the Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church, or any other church — is not merely the sum total and person of its leadership. This is a hard, hard lesson to learn, and I learned it the hard, hard way.