The Church and Fidel Castro

Officially, Cuba has been an atheist state for most of the Castro era.

In 1962, the government of Fidel Castro seized and shut down more than 400 Catholic schools, charging that they spread dangerous beliefs among the people.
Colegio de Belen, Habana

In 1991, however, the Communist Party lifted its prohibition against religious believers seeking membership, and a year later the constitution was amended to characterize the state as secular instead of atheist.

In November 1996, Fidel Castro travelled to Rome where he was received by Pope John Paul II. As a result of this meeting, a Papal visit to Cuba was scheduled for 1998, which took place from January 21 to 25th of that year.
While the Cuban constitution recognizes the right of citizens to freedom of religion, the government de facto restricts that freedom. Twenty-two denominations are members of the Cuban Council of Churches (CCC). Most CCC members are officially recognized by the State.

The government does not favor any one particular religion or church; however, the government appears to be most tolerant of those churches that maintain close relations to the State through the CCC. Unregistered religious groups experience various degrees of official interference, harassment, and repression. The Ministry of Interior engages in active efforts to control and monitor the country’s religious institutions, including through surveillance, infiltration and harassment of religious professionals and practitioners.

The most independent religious organizations–including the Catholic Church, the largest independent institution in Cuba today–continue to operate under significant restrictions and pressure imposed on them by the Cuban regime.

The Cuban Government continues to refuse to allow the church to have independent printing press capabilities; full access to the media; to train enough priests for its needs or allow adequate numbers of foreign priests to work in the country; or to establish socially useful institutions, including schools and universities, hospitals and clinics, and nursing homes. All registered denominations must report to the Ministry of Interior’s Office of Religious Affairs.