Raúl Castro was a Jesuit schoolboy before turning to communism, and after a lengthy meeting with Pope Francis last month, he told Vatican reporters he was so impressed he was considering a return to the church. They laughed. “I’m serious,” said Castro, 84. If so, he would not be the first Cuban in recent years to find his way back to Jesus.
The island has experienced a religious revival of sorts in the past 25 years, as the demise of Soviet totalitarianism has made room for a tropical Marxism that is less than total but still highly controlling.
Today, Christmas and Good Friday are national holidays once more. Churchgoers no longer face official discrimination. For the first time in five decades, the government has given the Catholic church permission to build a cathedral.
Cuban authorities and the Catholic church both look warily on the rapid spread of evangelical denominations across the island, as hundreds if not thousands of tiny churches have popped up in Cubans’ living rooms. There is often no hierarchical structure for the Cuban government to relate to, and many smaller Christian groups have resisted the government’s attempt to organise them.
A case study: