Pope Francis has sent a telegram to Cuba expressing his condolences following the “sad news” of Fidel Castro’s death.
The message was addressed to Raúl Castro, Fidel’s brother, who currently rules the island.
The Pope also expressed condolences to the government and to Cuba’s people, and said he was offering prayers and entrusting the nation to the intercession of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, the patron saint of Cuba.
Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami said in a statement: “Now he awaits the judgment of God who is merciful but also just. His death provokes many emotions – both in and outside the island. Nevertheless, beyond all possible emotions, the passing of this figure should lead us to invoke the patroness of Cuba, the Virgin of Charity, asking for peace for Cuba and its people.”
Castro was 90 and ruled Cuba from 1959 – when his regime overthrew the government of Fulgencio Batista – until 2009 when he handed power over to his brother.
Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist party in Cuba, said the formal public mourning period and homages to Fidel Castro will begin today and last until December 4.
On November 30 the transport of his ashes to the province of Santiago will begin, concluding on December 3 at the cemetery of St Ifigenia in Santiago de Cuba, where the Cuban national leader José Martí is buried.
Archbishop Wenski concluded his message by asking that “Our Lady of Charity, hear her people’s prayers and hasten for Cuba the hour of its reconciliation in truth, accompanied by freedom and justice.”
Through the intercession of the Mary, may “the Cuban people know how to traverse that narrow road between fear which gives in to evil and violence, which under the illusion of fighting evil only makes it worse,” he added.
FULL TEXT OF POPE FRANCIS’S TELEGRAM:
“Upon receiving the sad news of the death of your dear brother, His Excellency Mister Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, former president of the State Council and of the Government of the Republic of Cuba, I express my sentiments of sorrow to Your Excellency and other family members of the deceased dignitary, as well as to the people of his beloved nation
“I offer prayers to the Lord for his rest and I trust the whole Cuban people to the maternal intercession of Our Lady of the Charity of El Cobre, patroness of this country.”