Havana, Cuba, Dec 3, 2016 / 15:40 pm
After Fidel Castro gained power in Cuba in 1959, he spent the next decade slowly imposing socialism on the country, including state atheism.
In 1960, several Cuban Catholic bishops signed a letter re-affirming the Church's long-standing rejection of communism and called for Catholics to reject it. In response, his government confiscated Catholic property and arrested Catholics. Then, in 1969, he banned the celebration of Christmas.
This ban on the celebration of one of the Church's high holy days lasted for nearly three decades until 1998, when St. John Paul II successfully convinced him to remove the ban. Joaquín Navarro-Valls, John Paul II's spokesman in the 1990s, recently shared the amazing story with Vatican Insider.
"I explained to him [Castro] that now that the date of [John Paul II's] visit was set – for 21 January 1998 – it would be interesting if it were a great success," Navarro-Valls shared. "'Cuba needs to surprise the word,' I told him. Fidel agreed."