by Our Foreign Desk
PRESIDENT Raul Castro suggested playfully yesterday, after a visit to Pope Francis at the Vatican, that he is so impressed by the pontiff that he is considering a return to the church.
The Cuban leader, who was returning from Victory Day celebrations in Moscow, flew to Rome to thank the Pope personally for working for Cuban-US detente.
Pope Francis will visit Cuba in September en route to the United States.
After leaving the Vatican, Mr Castro said that the Pope “is a Jesuit and I, in some way, am too,” having always studied at Jesuit schools.
“When the Pope goes to Cuba in September, I promise to go to all his masses, and with satisfaction,” he said.
“I read all the speeches of the Pope, his commentaries. And if the Pope continues this way I will go back to praying, go back to the church — and I’m not joking,” the president added.
“I am from the Cuban Communist Party, which didn’t allow believers, but now we do allow it. It’s an important step,” he said.
Mr Castro expressed hope of a speedy thaw between Havana and Washington. “Maybe the Senate will take us off the list of terrorist nations” soon, he said.
The president’s daughter Mariela Castro led the eighth annual march of 1,000 LGBT Cubans through Havana on Saturday.
Protestant clergymen from the US and Canada blessed the relationships of two dozen gay couples as part of official ceremonies leading up to the Global Day against Homophobia on May 17.