Fidel Castro is a thief and a murderer. And he may be returning to Christianity.
The long-time Cuban president is responsible for the dispossession of millions of dollars worth of land, cars, cash, and other material goods once held privately by Cubans. He is also responsible for the more heinous crime of dispossession of the dignity and lives of countless Cuban citizens. Hundreds of men and women endure squalid prison conditions because of his policies. Churches, trade unions, newspapers, political parties, free courts, and other green shoots of independence, pluralism, and liberty have been cut down to the nub or choked by Fidel Castro, his brother Raul, and their geriatric posse of communist true believers.
But rumour has it that Fidel is contemplating a return to his old faith. As with most news from Cuba, it's difficult to determine the veracity of these claims, but an Italian newspaper quotes his daughter Alina as saying, "Today he is more interested in the fate of his soul than the future of Cuba."
Let us hope and pray that this is true. Let's hope that he embraces the true fidel.
Because while it might be true that he is more concerned for the state of his soul than for the future of Cuba, it is also true that a full reorientation of his soul towards God and his rejoining of God's church would be a tremendous development in the future of Cuba.
For many, including his groupies in Canada, Fidel is the very embodiment of the successful people's revolution; Fidel is Cuba. The reason why Cubans in tandem shout "Viva la revolucion, Viva Fide!" (and more recently "Viva Raul") is that Fidel has consciously cultivated a cult of personality in which his history is equated with the history of the Cuban communist state.
His return to the church, even on his death bed, would be one of the biggest cultural changes in Cuba since Fidel launched his revolution. It would be a clear sign to all Cubans that the story told by the church—the one institution which has been a resolute force for freedom in the face of the repression, and which has been a source of intellectual and spiritual energy to all those "demanding the effective recognition of their inalienable human rights"—is a truer story than that told by the state. It would be a clear indication, as Oliver O'Donovan notes, "that if we once dare to ask what lies behind politics and its justice, we must find ourselves face-to-face with heaven and hell."
Who knows whether Mr. Castro is as concerned about his soul as his daughter says he is? I know that many of my Cuban friends—those who have suffered—simply want their freedom. I'm sure many of them will still pray Psalms 52 and 53. But, let's also pray for Mr. Castro's repentance. Cuba might now be a socialist paradise led by an unrepentant dictator. But even dictators on their death beds, like criminals on Golgotha, can choose another, better, paradise, where repentant thieves and murderers are welcome.