Former spokesman reveals how St. John Paul II convinced Castro to allow Christmas celebration
November 28, 2016
Reflecting on the death of Fidel Castro, a former Vatican spokesman described how St. John Paul II persuaded the Cuban dictator to allow the celebration of Christmas.
Joaquin Navarro-Valls related to the Italian daily La Stampa how he traveled to Cuba in 1998, to prepare for the historic visit by Pope John Paul II to the island nation, and met with Castro. When Navarro-Valls relayed the Pope’s request to allow the celebration of Christmas—which had been banned by Castro’s atheist government—the Cuban leader protested that the celebration would disrupt the sugar-harvesting season. Navarro-Valls replied that if Castro honored the request, the Pontiff would thank him in public, immediately upon his arrival in Cuba. Castro agreed, and Christmas has been celebrated in Cuba each year since that time.
Navarro-Valls also told La Stampa that Pope John Paul II prayed for Castro regularly, and he told the dictator that the Pope “prays that a man of your education may find the way of the Lord again.”
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