Diaz-Canel Tried to Manipulate John Paul II’s Visit to Cuba in 1998

Fidel Castro and Pope John Paul II, during the latter’s visit to Cuba in 1998. (EFE / Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 January 2021 — The former spokesman for the Archdiocese of Havana, Orlando Márquez, revealed that the current president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, tried to manipulate the visit of Pope John Paul II to Santa Clara in 1998.

At that time Díaz-Canel was the first Party secretary in the province, and, according to Márquez in an article published in the magazine Otra Word, he pushed for the mass of the head of the Church to be celebrated in the Plaza Che Guevara and not in the Loma del Capiro, as originally agreed.

Márquez affirms that he cannot help but recall the uneasiness of the Bishop of Santa Clara, Monsignor Fernando Prego, “when the local authorities proposed that this papal mass be celebrated in the Che Guevara Plaza de la Revolución,” one of the “sacred” symbols of the Cuban regime.

It was there that in 1997, a year before the arrival of Karol Wojtyla to Cuba, Fidel Castro received with pomp the dubious remains of the Argentine guerrilla to the island.

“Someone decided that the best moment to resuscitate the memory of Che Guevara was the one in which the thirty years from his death coincided with the preparation for the Pope’s visit,” said the former spokesperson for the Havana archdiocese without naming names.

According to Márquez, the Cuban Catholic Church refused because of “the interpretations or consequences” of a mass in that place, dedicated to a man who was responsible for hundreds of executions and who openly affirmed that the purpose of every revolutionary was to become “a cold killing machine.”

Jesuit priest Roberto Tucci, who was responsible for the Pope’s travels at the time, rejected the proposal, and the Cuban authorities had to give in and allow the Eucharist to take place at the Santa Clara Sports School.

The visit of John Paul II, a pope from the Soviet bloc, was seen by the world as a sign of the opening of the Castro regime, which for decades persecuted believers, but immediately the system returned to its own devices. Nothing prevented, for example, years later, the persecution of Catholics united by Oswaldo Payá around the Christian Liberation Movement.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.