By Judi McLeod | Canada Free Press
It was like a slap in the face to Cuban Catholics when Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Archbishop of Genoa, visited the “island prison” known as Cuba, Oct. 3-10, during which time he had an interview of two hours with the communist dictator Fidel Castro. Adding insult to injury, the Archbishop extended a “special” greeting to Castro on behalf of His Holiness Benedict XV1.
“It is without a doubt painful, particularly for the faithful Cuban Catholics, to see a Shepard go out to meet the Wolf, and subsequently to praise it almost as if were an innocent Lamb,” says author and anti-communist crusader Armando F. Valladares.
When it comes to Castro’s Cuba Valladares knows of which he speaks.
At the age of 23, Valladares was dragged from his home in front of his sister and mother in the middle of the night�arrested and thrown into one of Castro’s prisons, all for daring to oppose Communism. It took 22 long years before an international campaign of protest set him free. He is the author of a best-selling book-testimonial Contra toda esperanza (Against All Hope).
Perhaps the Cardinal should read the fate of the 50 Cubans, many tortured and killed, some still in prison in the photo lineup at the back of Valladare’s compelling book.
It seems that Cardinal Bertone is only the latest in a long line of fawning Castro clerics.
“An enigmatic continuity of the politics of the extended hand on the part of the Vatican and of high-level ecclesiastical figures has been displayed toward the tyrant of the Caribbean during the course of more than three decades,” says Valladares. “It goes back to the period in which Archbishop Agostino Casaroli, at that time secretary of the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church, who stated during a visit to Cuba that the Catholics of the Island were happy.”
Cuban Catholics would be happy if the new pontiff took a stronger stand against the man they call the “tyrant of the Caribbean”.
Instead, Cardinal Bertone’s visit was akin to pouring salt into a long-festering wound.
In tow on the Cardinal’s visit to Castro were his secretary Stefano Olivastri and the Nuncio, Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi.
Says Valladares: “International agencies and newspapers attributed to the Cardinal of Genoa various statements in which he praises the bloodthirsty dictator, something that is incomprehensible if one considers the dictator’s Communist ideology, which was characterized as “intrinsically evil” by traditional documents of the Popes of the 20th century, which he did not renounce and of which he continues to boast.”
On his return to Genoa, Cardinal Bertone called a press conference to say that “the Church in Cuba is viewed with respect by the government” and that “Castro himself manifested great appreciation for the Church.” Cardinal Bertone expressed his personal conviction that in the dictator “respect for religion has grown”, and he affirmed�against all evidence�that in the island-prison “already the opening is total.”
Yet, just one week after the Cardinal’s departure, the bishop of Holguin, in the east of the island dramatically denounced the fact that “aggression against Catholics” of his diocese “persist and increase in their violence”. (Catholic agency Zenit, Oct. 17, 2005).
How’s that for a contradiction of the illusory “total opening” that the Cardinal Archbishop of Genoa believed he saw in the former Pearl of the Antilles?
As august as his position is, Cardinal Bertone was not acting at his own discretion.
“It is difficult, not to say impossible, to suppose that Cardinal Bertone traveled to Cuba without the knowledge of the Office of the Vatican Secretary of State, and even of His Holiness Benedict XVI himself, judging from the information of the press, not contradicted up to the present that the Archbishop of Genoa was a bearer of a “special” greeting of the Pontiff to the dictator,” said Valladares.
Meanwhile, the new Pope could be offering the olive branch to the wrong Cuban party.