Pope Francis in Cuba

September 22, 2015 8:25 PM

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One of the most surreal moments of Pope Francis’s visit to Cuba came yesterday, when, during his second stop in the desultory eastern city of Holguín, the heavens opened up and a tropical downpour ensued, inundating the countryside and causing the region’s rivers to flood. It was the end, seemingly, of a long sequía (dry spell) that had the Cubans fretting and complaining about the unseasonably high temperatures, and about the lack of water in the country’s reservoirs. In Holguín, a man looked as me as the rains came and waggishly said: “The Pope has already brought us something good.” He pointedly did not say, as many Catholics might, that the rain represented “a miracle.” He smiled.

Despite three papal visits since 1998, a lack of devotional fervor prevails in Cuba, where for many years the ruling Communist Party was the only political—or spiritual—institution allowed. Christmas and Easter were not celebrated for more than thirty years, until the nineties, and Santa Claus was a...

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