I was sorry when the great Pope Benedict XVI retired. So much so that I actually questioned whether this is the kind of job in which retirement should be allowed.
However, Benedict’s successor, Pope Francis, has made me warm up to the notion on several occasions. The last time was yesterday, when His Holiness saw fit to thank Fidel Castro for “his contribution to world peace in a world saturated with hate and aggression.”
Yes, and I’d also like to thank Hitler (posthumously) for his contribution to race relations, Lenin (posthumously) for all he did for Russia, Pol Pot (posthumously) for having solved the problem of overpopulation and Jeremy Corbyn for his staunch royalism. Thanks all around.
One wonders if Pope Francis has any advisors to point out in advance that certain things he plans to say are not just ridiculously ideological but factually incorrect.
Probably not, for otherwise he would have been reminded that back in 1962 Castro aided and abetted Khrushchev’s efforts to bring the world to the brink of nuclear disaster. Or else that Castro is a mass murderer. Or that he created his own GULAG. Or that he can be credited with originating the concept of boat people. Or that he sent Cuban troops to Africa to act as the Soviets’ proxies in their attempt to dominate the continent. Or that, in general, Castro’s negative contribution to world peace is rivalled by few of his contemporaries.
On second thoughts, perhaps the Pope didn’t need advisors to point out these universally known facts. I’m sure that he praised Castro not in spite of his crimes but specifically because of them.
You see, after the Second World War the Soviets no longer spoke about their mission to bring about world revolution, or in other words to conquer the world. That remained their goal, but they now gave it a different name: struggle for peace.
The underlying canard was that the West was trying to unleash a world war, and only the valiant efforts of Soviet concentration-camp keepers managed to avert a global catastrophe. ‘Struggle for peace’ became the new Soviet term for their campaign to spread concentration camps all over the world.
The campaign was conducted through the most gigantic propaganda machine in history, putting Dr Goebbels’s amateurish efforts to shame. The machine was operated by hardened professionals, but it was helped along by millions of volunteer supporters around the world, of the type to whom Lenin had ungratefully referred as “useful idiots”.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio, as he then was, grew up as a leftie even by the standards of his generally left-leaning continent. To him the notion of communist Russia fighting for peace was an article of faith, possibly as firmly ingrained as the articles of the faith to which he pledged his professional life.
I don’t know if he used to spread Soviet propaganda, but it definitely affected him the way propaganda does at its best: not by appealing to reason but by conditioning reflexes.
It must have been by pure communism-equals-peace-struggle reflex that the Pope blurted out his plaudit for the mass murderer who has done as much as any man alive to undermine world peace.
Accidents do happen, even though one wishes that the world’s greatest Church were at this turbulent time led by a man whose reflexes are different. One also fears that, barring the Pope’s premature retirement, the Church won’t remain the world’s greatest for long.