Half-hour meeting at Castro's home was "cordial and informal"
Francis has held a face-to-face meeting with Fidel Castro. After celebrating Mass in Plaza de la Revolución, the Pope met the “líder máximo” in his home-turned-clinic. Fidel handed over the reins of power to his brother Raúl seven years ago, due to his poor health.
The director of the Vatican press office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, announced the news, explaining that the visit lasted just over half an hour, the same amount of time Benedict XVI had spent with him during his visit three years ago. “Francis arrived at Fidel’s residence with a small entourage”. He was waiting for Francis with his relatives, his wife, Dalia, and his grandchildren. The climate “was cordial and informal”.
At the end of his meeting with Pope Benedict in 2012, Castro had asked the then-Pope to recommend a book to read. Francis remembered this and brought him two books by Don Alessandro Pronzato, a priest and catechesis expert: the first is about joy as important elements of the spiritual life, titled “La nostra bocca si aprì al sorriso. Umorismo e fede” (“Our mouth opened up to smiling. Humor and faith”), and the second is titled “Vangeli scomodi” (“Uncomfortable Gospels”). The Pope also gave him a book and two CDs with the homilies of Fr. Armando Llorente, the Jesuit priest who had taught Castro at the Belén Jesuit preparatory school. Finally, Francis gave him copies of his Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” and his more recent “Laudato Si’” encyclical.
Fr. Lombardi said topics discussed included “protection of the environment and the great problems faced by today’s world”. Castro presented the Pope with a personally inscribed book titled “Fidel y la Religión” (“Fidel and Religion”). The inscription read: “To Pope Francis on the occasion of his fraternal visit to Cuba.” Fr. Lombardi said that the Vatican will not be publishing any photographs.
This article was first published in Vatican Insider and is reprinted here with permission.