Vatican City, 20 September 2015 (VIS) – Following Holy Mass, and after lunch in the apostolic nunciature, the Pope transferred by car to the Palace of the Revolution to pay a courtesy visit to the President of the Council of State of Cuba, Raul Castro, elected in 2008 after his brother Fidel Castro stood down for reasons of ill health. Although this did not form part of the official programme for the visit, the Holy Father also met with “Commander” Fidel.
“The meeting was foreseeable, although it did not form part of the programme”, explained Fr. Lombardi. “We all knew that Commander Fidel wanted to see the Pope, as he did with Pope Benedict XVI during his visit. Commander Fidel, who is an elderly man, is spending this phase of his life in study and reflection: he reads a lot and enjoys conversing with people with great experience. This is explicitly how it was with Pope Benedict XVI, and also with Pope Francis”.
“Fidel had asked Pope Benedict to send some books that could be useful for his reflections, and Francis followed on from this by taking, on his own initiative, two books by the Italian priest Alessandro Pronzato, known to many as a prolific author of spiritual and catechetic texts. He also took a book and two CDs by Fr. Armando Llorente, a Jesuit priest who died a few years ago, who was close to Castro as a child when he attended the Jesuit school at the Colegio de Belen. The memorial of this relationship with a teacher who profoundly affected his life during his youth was a very meaningful gesture on the part of the Pope”.
“The Holy Father also took his two great texts, 'Evangelii Gaudium' and 'Laudato si''. This latter focuses on themes of interest to Castro also in this stage of his life – the great questions of the current world and its future. It is certainly a document he will find most interesting. Commander Castro gave the Pope a very well-known book, 'Fidel y la Religion' by Frei Betto, which takes the form of a conversation with Frei Betto. It was a very informal encounter, a serene exchange in the presence of various members of his family, and certainly a positive moment”.