Pope Francis Meets Fidel Castro

Pope Francis Meets Fidel CastroPope Francis Meets Fidel Castro

The pope has met with Cuba’s ex-president for a “familial” discussion at Castro’s residence. Francis also took the chance on his visit to the island to take a dig at communist ideology.

Pope Francis met with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro on Sunday after celebrating Mass for thousands of worshippers at Havana’s famous Revolution Plaza. During the service, Francis called on the people of Cuba to serve each other and not an ideology, in a subtle slight to the island nation’s communist system, DW reported.

“Service is never ideological,” he said, “for we do not serve ideas, we serve people.”

The pope then went to Castro’s residence for a 40-minute meeting that the Vatican described as informal and familial, with a discussion on big issues facing today’s world–such as climate change and the global economy–a far cry from the 2012 visit that saw Castro pepper Francis’ predecessor Benedict XVI with probing questions.

The two men also exchanged gifts, with Castro giving the pontiff a huge crucifix made of oars by the Cuban artist Kcho, and a painting of the country’s patron saint, the Virgin of Charity of Cobre.

The pope raised a few eyebrows by gifting Castro, among other things, a collection of sermons by the late Reverend Amando Llorente, a Jesuit who once taught Castro while the former president was at high school but then fled the island when Castro’s 1959 revolution expelled foreign clerics.