[Marxism] Leonardo Boff - Fidel at 80: Confidential Memories

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sun Aug 13 11:40:54 MDT 2006

(Leonardo Boff is the father of Liberation Theology. Frei Betto's
booklength interview with the Commander-in-Chief, whose title is
FIDEL AND RELIGION [Ocean Press], is dedicated to Leonardo Boff.)

Fidel at 80: Confidential Memories
Leonardo Boff 
    Earthcharter Commission

What I am going to reveal here will irritate or scandalize those who
do not like Cuba or Fidel Castro. That does not worry me. If you do
not see the light of the star in the darkest night, it is not the
star's fault; but yours.

Because of my book, Church: Charisma and Power, in 1985, then
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger subjected me to <obsequious silence>. I
accepted the sentence, and quit teaching, writing and speaking in
public. Months later, I was surprised to receive an invitation from
Commandant Fidel Castro, asking me to spend two weeks with him on the
Island, during his vacation. I accepted immediately, because I saw an
opportunity to resume the critiquing dialogues that we had enjoyed
several times previously, together with Frei Betto.

I headed to Cuba, and reported to the Commandant. In my presence, he
immediately called the Apostolic Nuncio with whom he had cordial
relations, and said to him: <Eminence, here is Brother Boff, who will
be my guest for two weeks. As I am disciplined, I will not allow him
to talk with anyone, nor give interviews, this way he will observe
what the Vatican wants of him: obsequious silence. I will see to it
that that is respected.> And so it was.

During those two weeks, whether by car, airplane or ship, he showed
me the whole Island. Simultaneously, with total freedom, we conversed
about a thousand topics: politics, religion, Marxism, revolution and
also critiques of the deficiencies of democracy.

The nights were devoted to long meals, followed by serious
discussions that often lasted into the early morning. Some times
until 6 a.m. Then, he would stand up, stretch, and say:<now I am
going to swim for some 40 minutes; and after that, I will go to
work.> I would write down what we had talked about and then, go to

Some topics of our fellowship seem relevant to me. First of all,
Fidel's persona. He is larger than the Island. His Marxism is more
ethical than political: how to do justice to the poor? Then, there is
his knowledge of the theology of liberation. He has read a mountain
of books, all of them with notes, lists of terms and of doubts that
he would clarify with me. I once told him: <If Cardinal Ratzinger
understood half of what you understand of the Theology of Liberation,
my personal destiny and the future of this theology would be very
different.> And in that context, he confessed: <I am ever more
convinced that no Latin American revolution will be true, popular and
triumphant, if it does not incorporate the religious element.>
Perhaps due to this conviction, he had practically forced Frei Betto
and myself to give successive lessons on religion and Christianity to
the whole second echelon of Government; some times, with all the
ministers present. Those courses were decisive for the Government in
dialoguing and coming to a sort of <reconciliation> with the Catholic
Church and all the other religions in Cuba.

Finally, there was his confession: <I was an intern with the Jesuits
for several years; they gave me discipline but did not teach me how
to think. In jail, reading Marx, I learned to think. Due to the
Northamerican pressure I had to make a rapprochement to the Soviet
Union, but if I had had at that time a theology of liberation, I
would most certainly had embraced it and applied it in Cuba.> And he
finished: <If one day I return to the faith of my childhood, it will
be by the hands of Brother Betto and Brother Boff> We reached moments
of such solidarity that we could have easily prayed the Our Father

I had written 4 thick notebooks about our dialogues, but in Rio de
Janeiro my car was attacked, and they took everything. The book I had
imagined can never be written, but I treasure the memory of the
unforgettable experience of a Head of State, worried about the
dignity and the future of the poor.

Leonardo Boff


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