Tarcisio Cardenal Bertone has donated a lifesize statue of Pope John Paul II to the Cuban people who would have preferred two words of succor to 2000 lbs. of bronze. I don't know if the former Eastern bloc countries have erected statues to the late pontiff. They certainly have greater cause to honor him than we do, although we too may honor him as their liberator. He, of course, did nothing for us when he was finally allowed to visit Cuba nearly a decade after the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe.
The John Paul that visited Cuba in 1998 was a different pope from the one who 10 years earlier had confronted and defeated Communism. He came to Cuba to preach reconciliation not resistance and forgiveness where there had never been justice. Like Bertone, he decried the trade embargo against Cuba which the Vatican had supported against South Africa. While he held the other Communist satraps at arm's length and rebuked Marcos like an unruly school child, he was nothing if not deferential with Fidel, never criticizing him in his homilies nor the inhuman system he had fostered on the Cuban people, so inhuman himself in fact and detached from the reality that surrounded him and cried out to him for recognition, that one would have thought he had left Rome for Cuba to do as the Cubans do, or at least as Castro and his henchmen do — scoff at the suffering of the Cuban people. His words of praise for "Che" Guevara's good intentions and for the Revolution's social regression, but, above all, the posed photographs of John Paul and Castro hand in hand, literally and figuratively, may some day condemn his donated statue to the same fate as "Che" Guevara's, which is only few meters from it in Santa Clara.
In fact, it could be argued that Pope John Paul II's statue is part of a monumental complex dedicated to "Che" Guevara. The statue was a gift from Cardinal Bertone but its placement and configuration was determined by the regime. The statue has a stone canopy above it which, according to Granma, represents "La Loma del Capiro, an historical site in Santa Clara associated with the liberation of this city by troops under Comandante Che Guevara in late December 1958."
The union of Catholic and Communist iconography in this sculptural ensemble is strangely appropriate. John Paul II was a great admirer of Guevara. Guevara, of course, would have had only the greatest contempt for John Paul and if his hands had ever touched his it would not have been fraternally, but Guevara missed the John Paul phenomenon and his feelings are not on record. There is also the symbolism which the statue denotes, for Cuba's collaborationist Church (or, at least, its hierarchs) are indeed under the protection of the State as the State itself enjoys the support and benediction of both the Cuban and the Universal Church.