Pope Benedict meets with Cuba's former President Fidel Castro in Havana March 28.

April 9, 2012

HAVANA – Pope Benedict met former Cuban President Fidel Castro in the apostolic nunciature in Havana March 28 and answered the ailing former leader's questions, the Vatican spokesman said.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said he watched the two men through a window, and afterward he spoke with the pope about the conversation, which seemed animated.

The pope said Castro, who was raised a Catholic, asked about the reasons for the changes in the liturgy after the Second Vatican Council, about the role of the pope and about the pope's thinking about the larger philosophical questions weighing on the minds of people today.

The meeting lasted about 30 minutes, Lombardi said, and the questions were an indication that "now his life is one dedicated to reflection and writing."

On the liturgy, the pope said Castro told him, "It's not the Mass I knew in my youth."

The more philosophical topics included Castro's curiosity about how the Church is handling the ethical challenges posed by scientific and technological developments and the relationship between faith and reason.

"In the end, Commandante Fidel asked the pope to send him a few books" dealing with the questions he had, the spokesman said.


Lombardi also said Castro had told Pope Benedict that he had followed the pope's entire visit on television, and Castro had remarked that he and the pope were about the same age.

The pope will celebrate his 85th birthday in April, and Castro will turn 86 in August.

The pope said he told Castro, "Yes, I'm old, but I can still carry out my duties," Lombardi said.