celebrating Mass for tens of thousands of people in Havana’s Revolutionary Square on Sunday.
A Vatican spokesman said the pontiff and the die-hard communist had
an informal conversation during their half-hour sit-down at Castro’s
Castro’s children and grandchildren were also present for the
meeting, at which Francis and Castro exchanged gifts of books about
The pope brought a book written by a Jesuit priest who taught Francis
at the Catholic school he attended as a kid, while Castro gave Francis a
volume of his talks with Brazilian monk and political activist Frei
Betto, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said.
Earlier, Francis delivered a homily that criticized both political ideology and “elitism”
in the same square where Cubans celebrate May Day beneath massive
portraits of revolutionary leaders Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Camilo
“Service is never ideological for we do not serve ideas, we serve people,” the pope said.
Francis also blasted “those who climb the ladder most quickly to take the jobs which carry certain benefits.”
Those in attendance included Castro’s younger brother, Cuban President Raul Castro, who succeeded Fidel in 2008.
A giant poster of Jesus Christ was hung nearby to welcome the pope,
and cops kept away protesters and blocked others from apparently
attempting to hand out flyers near the plaza.
Fidel Castro had previously met pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 1996 and on three occasions when he visited Cuba in 1998.
He also met pope Benedict XVI when he visited Cuba in 2012.
After decades of hostility between Castro’s communist regime and the
Catholic Church, relations have slowly improved since the mid-1980s,
with John Paul II’s historic visit playing a key role.
With Post wire services