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Orthodox Patriarch Praises Dead Atheist Dictator

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” [1] , and Fidel, in his own words, made himself the “building inspector” [2]. 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 [3]  on 13 February of this year at his home, the day after my meeting [4] 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 [5], 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 [5]. 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.

72 Comments (Open | Close)

72 Comments To "Orthodox Patriarch Praises Dead Atheist Dictator"

#1 Comment By Gavin James Campbell On November 28, 2016 @ 9:07 am

The hypocrites are those who support Assad but then condemn Castro.
When the moral principles by which we condemn Assad are one in the same as those by which we condemn Castro. But apparently conservatives have become moral relativists in their own way. Dictators are only bad when their communists!

#2 Comment By Beardie On November 28, 2016 @ 9:56 am

Fran Macadam:

It wasn’t a Rolex; it was far more exclusive. A Breguet worth many tens of thousands.

I’ve met very holy men who had expensive things (received as gifts) and barely notice them. I have no problem with that.

But in the case of this Patriarch and in light of his history, it is hard to shake the thought that this came from some disturbing political patronage, especially considering that he attempted to hide it…

#3 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On November 28, 2016 @ 10:56 am

Gavin James Campbell says:

The hypocrites are those who support Assad but then condemn Castro.
When the moral principles by which we condemn Assad are one in the same as those by which we condemn Castro. But apparently conservatives have become moral relativists in their own way. Dictators are only bad when their communists!

Gavin, there’s a huge difference between supporting a non-interventionist policy and supporting Assad.

#4 Comment By Kenneth Hines On November 28, 2016 @ 11:32 am

Thank you, Rod, for speaking truth to power. As an Orthodox convert over 20 years ago, I am embarrassed by and ashamed of Orthodox Bishops who put their heads in the sand at best or accommodate and even advocate the secular, progressive narrative. I don’t expect them to defend conservative ideology but only to be prophetic and warn us against immorality wherever it is sanctioned or practiced.

#5 Comment By MikeCA On November 28, 2016 @ 11:33 am

Trudeau never fails to bring up human rights abuses when talking to foreign leaders- he was recently in Cuba and discussed the issue with Raoul. Fidel was close friends with Trudeau père and attended his funeral in 2000. I believe Justin was returning the courtesy to the Castro family in the form of condolences. I’m not sure the tone of President Obama’s comment was significantly different. You may not like Trudeau’s politics or cultural views but by all accounts he is a genuinely nice guy- not perfect,who among us is?

#6 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 28, 2016 @ 1:33 pm

People born since 1980, or even born since 1970, have probably forgotten the times in the early years of the revolution when Cuba stood up to the Soviet Union. They were the brash young revolution that was going to do things right. Che Guevara got up at the United Nations to denounce Russian imperialism toward the emerging nations of Asia and Africa.

I finished watching the second half of the movie “Fidel” last night. Its amazing what length could be packed into one VHS tape. This is undoubtedly a scriptwriter’s imagery rather than a historical transcript, but there is a scene consistent with the politics of the time, where a Russian envoy is discussing various measures of economic cooperation, and Castro tells him, no, wait, the way we do it is, first we explain what we want to do, then we ask the people if they want us to do that. The Russian envoy says, oh, yes, admirable system. Castro grins at him and says “Lenin.” Cuba was going to do do the revolution the way Lenin wrote in exile, not the way Stalin delivered in practice. Of course we know it didn’t work out that way, but its worth looking at how we got here from there.

I was also reminded that what really tripped up the revolution was Castro’s idealism. I mean that in the negative sense. He knew the Cuban economy, dependent like most of the Caribbean on exporting commodities to the U.S., needed to be diversified and the nation’s independence strengthened. But he had these ideas that coffee trees could be planted willy bnilly on the outskirts of the cities, and wouldn’t listen to agricultural experts who told him the soil, climate, etc. were all wrong for growing coffee successfully. Then Castro called for dedication and sacrifice, rather than looking at how to make things work.

One thing a revolutionary should never do: demand from the entire population the dedication and sacrifice it takes to win a revolution. It really is only a minority of humanity that ever gets motivated to do such things. The masses may cheer them on, if the timing is right, but no nation of human beings is going to ever make such commitments en masse. Its suicide to pretend otherwise.

#7 Comment By Simon94022 On November 28, 2016 @ 2:55 pm

Dictators are only bad when their communists!

Untrue. What is true is that, all other things being equal, dictators are much worse when they are communist than when they are not.

#8 Comment By Seth Largo On November 28, 2016 @ 4:23 pm

Ronald Nigh’s decision to list all of Castro’s achievements while mentioning none of their costs makes me fear for Mr. Nigh’s neighbors. Here is a man who believes no amount of authoritarian terror is too much as long as we end up in utopia at the end. His kind, both left and right, are the fons et origo of all that is evil in this world.

#9 Comment By JonF On November 28, 2016 @ 4:28 pm

Re: Is it possible that Patriarch Kirill praised Castro because Catholic churchmen like Cardinal Ortega, and perhaps Francis, told him that Fidel is really a-ok?

I suspect that the influence went the other way, if at all. Patriarch Kiril is a Russian first and foremost, and Russians were told for fifty years that Sastro was a good guy, and Cuba a nation much oppressed and endangered by the United States. You don’t have take a dark view of Kiril to understand that this is the paradigm that engraved in his outlook. (And beyond that Russians are not Americans, and overall the culture seems quite happy to affirm the necessity for rulers to break a few eggs while they cook their omelets.)

#10 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 28, 2016 @ 7:46 pm

Here is a man who believes no amount of authoritarian terror is too much as long as we end up in utopia at the end.

That statement could be true, as I’m sure Hector and Heartright will affirm faster than I would. BUT, the $64,000 question is what does “end up in utopia” consist of? Utopia better be guaranteed to be pretty darn beneficial to justify the authoritarian means to get there.

#11 Comment By Rebecca On November 28, 2016 @ 10:24 pm

This has explained the context of Kyrill’s words more than anything to me:

Castro, sincerely or not, certainly took a conciliatory approach when meeting with Orthodox hierarchs, and seemed to repent of his persecution of Christianity (though perhaps he went easier on Orthodoxy for some other reason) by overseeing the building of an Orthodox church which would grow to have over 1,000 parishioners. It can’t erase all the evil he did, but it’s not nothing.

#12 Comment By Fran Macadam On November 29, 2016 @ 1:31 am

“Utopia better be guaranteed to be pretty darn beneficial to justify the authoritarian means to get there.”

At any particular point, that end is the same as the means used to get there.

When you try to attain an end incompatible with the means used, that end never is attained.

That’s why the end never justifies the means, it’s a logical non sequitur.

And that is why Castro’s ends resembled his means.

#13 Comment By Fran Macadam On November 29, 2016 @ 1:39 am

“[… The cardinal is supposed to have replied that Napoleon would have no chance at that. “If we haven’t been able to do so after all these years, what makes you think you could?” the cardinal said. It’s probably not true, but what a great story. — RD]”

Must have been an incarnation of The Grand Inquisitor!

#14 Comment By JonF On November 29, 2016 @ 10:59 am

Napoleon cannot be described as a good son of the Church, but his quarrel with the Pope was temporal, not spiritual– he wanted Rome, and all Italy. But he did restore the French Church to Papal allegiance, brought back the Gregorian calendar, reinstituted the Catechism as part of children’s education, and cracked down on the some of the moral loucheness of the Republic (Mme. Tallien was told to quit going about bare-breasted in public; Mme. de Stael was told to support her ailing husband; and his own mistresses were made ladies-in-waiting to Josephine in the old royal style of hiding in plain sight what everyone knew was going on behind the bedchamber door.)

#15 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 29, 2016 @ 11:18 am

Venezuela “embraced Castro and the Cuban Revolution as its model” only insofar as the US media considers it potentially relevant, i.e. to the extend that both are independent nationalist regimes that reject US influence and occasionally engage in a crude, theatrical ati-Americanism. That is why Rod constantly tries to draw parallels between two awful countries that in reality are both awful in their own very distinct ways: because they are interchangeable to an imagined audience which takes its geopolitical intuitions from Tom Clancy bound paper. Most Cubans are neither starving nor desperately trying to flee Cuba. Venezuela is a crony capitalist state that maintains elements of rule of law and multi-party democracy, hence the constant political strife that characterises the country’s politics.


Venezuela’s problems today actually are related to the fact they decided to pursue a very different path than Cuba (i.e. a democratic socialism that focused on providing consumer goods rather than a command economy that focused on long term development). Back in the 1960s (I think) Castro met with Allende and warned him that democratic socialism would never work in a developing country, for one simple reason: in order to win elections a government would need to spend unsustainable amounts of money on buying chickens and refrigerators to give away to voters, which would end up sacrificing investment in capital goods. This turned out to be…..exactly what happened in Venezuela. (For all their faults, the communist regimes in Eastern Europe had very high levels of investment, because they didn’t have to win elections and could afford to skimp on consumer goods).

If Chavez had actually decided to go the Cuban route in 2001 (he didn’t, and was very clear he wsn’t going to), Venezuela would probably be a lot better off than it is.

#16 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 29, 2016 @ 11:26 am

Ronald Nigh,

Yes I made that point in the other thread. Valladares is not a trustworthy source either about his own imprisonment or about Cuba in general, and shouldn’t be taken as particularly reliable as an expert on the Cuban regime. (Solzhenitsyn on the other hand was a powerful moral witness about his own experiences: he was wrong about some details about the Soviet regime but excusably so, since the archives were closed at the time and no one really knew what Stalin’s death toll was).

John Smith,

Cuba has a lower emigration rate (on the order of 15% of Cubans live outside Cuba) than most of its neighbors. Barbados, the richest country in the region, has had a 20% emigration rate. For most countries it’s much higher. 50% of Puerto Ricans have left their country, so does that mean that American-style liberal-democratic capitalism has failed Puerto Rico even worse than communism has failed Cuba?

Not just anyone fells a dictatorship with 20 men, defying the American Empire.
Not just anyone eliminates illiteracy in a year.
Not just anyone makes child mortality decrease from 42% to 4%.
Not just anyone trains more than 130 thousand doctors, guaranteeing 1 doctor per 130 people, with the highest index of doctors per capita in the world.
Not just anyone creates the largest Faculty of Medicine in the World, graduating 1500 foreign physicians per year, with 25,000 medical graduates from 84 nations.
Not everyone sends more than 30 thousand doctors to collaborate in more than 68 countries of the world, nearly 600,000 missions.
Not everyone creates the only Latin American nation without child malnutrition.
Not everyone creates the only Latin American country with no drug problem.
Not everyone achieves 100% educated population.
Not everyone can travel in their country without seeing a single child sleeping in the street.
Not everyone manages to be the only country in the world that fulfills ecological sustainability.
Not everyone achieves 79 years of life expectancy at birth.
Not just anyone creates cancer vaccines.
Not everyone manages to be the only country to eradicate mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
No just anyone manages to have the most Olympic medals in Latin America.
Not just anyone survives more than 600 attempts on his life and 11 American presidents trying to overthrow him.
Not just anyone survives 50 years of blockade and economic war.
Not everyone reaches 90 years, with so much influence in world history.
Loved by millions. Misunderstood by others. What no one can do is ignore him. #hastalavictoriasiempre #graciasFidel

+1000 to this.

Barring their great domestic achievements (every Cuban whatever their other problems may be, has at least access to housing, a basic level of nutrition, a job, and an enviable standard of education), Cuba has been a truly massive source of foreign aid to poorer countries, largely in the form of doctors and other skilled personnel. That’s probably the image people in a lot of developing countries most associate with Fidel Castro.

#17 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 29, 2016 @ 11:33 am

Patriarch Kirill likewise warmly congratulated Gennady Zyuganov, the longtime head of Russian Communist Party, for his 70th birthday. That despite the fact that this man “proudly” represents the organization that killed some 95% of all Orthodox clergy in Russia in 1920s and 1930s.

Gennady Zyuganov was a small child when Stalin died and the murderous era ended. And the Cubans, whatever their other forms of persecution, never engaged in mass murder. Do you think that modern-day Democratic Party politicians are to blame for Jim Crow, just because Democrats at the time supported it? As for Castro, holding him responsible for murders that happened on another continent and ended six years before he assumed political power (and eight years before he declared himself a communist) makes about as much sense as accusing Rod of murdering gay people just because some Protestant pastors in Africa support doing that.

#18 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 29, 2016 @ 11:34 am

My guess is that Patriarch Kirrill, like most Russians, has a considerable amount of nostalgia for Communism and considers it a political system that contained much good as well as some evil. His relationship with both Zyuganov and Castro probably reflects that. Then again, I am not him and I don’t know what he was thinking.

#19 Comment By Cole On November 29, 2016 @ 4:59 pm

This is simply another example of what we all ought to know by now: that the Russian Orthodox Church never quite recovered from its time under Communism and remains, even now, little more than a mouthpiece for the Russian State.

#20 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 29, 2016 @ 10:38 pm

Cole… the Russian Orthodox Church was little more than a mouthpiece for the Russian State for many, many centuries before communism was ever thought of.

#21 Comment By Billiamo On November 30, 2016 @ 12:30 pm

MikeCA, I hesitate to gainsay your remarks, which were made in the right spirit, but history is replete with ‘nice guys’ who assisted evil through sins of omission.

#22 Comment By Winston On November 30, 2016 @ 10:44 pm

A dictator who delivered quality healthcare and medicine for his people, and delivered higher literacy levels than in US despite being under crippling US sanctions and over 600 attempts on his life!
Despite its poverty and severe restrictions on resources due to the ongoing embargo, Cuban achievements in terms of health, education, international solidarity, culture, sport, literacy and pharmaceutical innovation rank alongside those of first world countries. So maybe we should be asking not what the US can teach Cuba, but what can they learn?”


What the US can learn from Cuba during Obama’s historic visit

“While the media usually focuses on Cuba ‘s poor human rights record, it doesn’t tend to notice that Cuba ‘s national health system is praised by British and Americans alike as one of the world’s best. Indeed, it is the envy of public health officials in many developed countries, both for its effectiveness and cost efficiency.”

Cuba best for healthcare

In “eat local” movement, Cuba is years ahead
Cuba’s urban farming program a stunning success


How Numbers Have Helped 8 Million People Learn How to Read

US has higher illiteracy than Cuba:

“32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read. That’s 14 percent of the population. 21 percent of adults in the U.S. read below a 5th grade level, and 19 percent of high school graduates can’t read. The current literacy rate isn’t any better than it was 10 years ago. According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (completed most recently in 2003, and before that, in 1992), 14 percent of adult Americans demonstrated a “below basic” literacy level in 2003, and 29 percent exhibited a “basic” reading level.”
The U.S. Illiteracy Rate Hasn’t Changed In 10 Years