VATICAN CITY, April 25, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM / AFP) — Cuba’s Fidel Castro sincerely liked John Paul II, the late pope who is set to be put on the path to sainthood, the Vatican’s number two said in a book, extracts of which were published on Sunday.
The Cuban revolution icon read the pontiff’s main writings and even poems before John Paul II’s 1998 visit to Cuba, L’Osservatore Romano newspaper said, quoting Tarcisio Bertone’s testimony for a book A Great Heart.
Homage To John Paul II, which is a compilation of interviews, AFP reported on Sunday.
Mr Bertone, currently Cardinal Secretary of State to Pope Benedict XVI, said the deceased pontiff returned with ‘very positive’ impressions after the visit.
‘Fidel Castro showed a sincere affection for the pope who, it must be remembered, was already ill. John Paul II told me that perhaps no other head of state had prepared for his visit in such a precise manner.’
Mr Castro ‘had read his encyclicals (letters sent by the pope to all Roman Catholic bishops around the world), the main speeches and even some poems,’ he said. The historic visit, the first ever by a pope to the island nation, saw Cubans accord an overwhelming welcome. John Paul II had during the trip exhorted Havana to open up more but at the same time criticised US sanctions.
The late pope, who reigned between 1979 and 2005, is set to be beatified on May 1, a key step toward canonisation as a saint. (*)