Fidel Castro Has Found Jesus, Will Ask Pope For Forgiveness, Daughter Says UPDATE

Decades after his education by Havana Jesuits, is Fidel Castro starting to feel kinda bad about the whole renouncing religion and being a hated dictator stuff? According to his Miami-based daughter Alina, the Marxist in fact has "come closer to religion" as he edges stubbornly toward death. Vatican officials confirm to one Italian paper that the pope expects to talk Jesus -- and maybe even take confession -- from the ailing strongman during Benedict's visit to Cuba next month.

"He has rediscovered Jesus at the end of his life," says Alina Fernandez, his estranged daughter.

Update: Fernandez has emailed Riptide denying saying any such thing to the Italian paper La Repubblica. "I left Cuba many years ago, and have no idea if he has 'found Jesus' and would not be able to speculate about my father's supposed desire for 'forgiveness' or even his chances of 'eternal damnation,'" she writes.

Worth noting: Alina is a stringent critic of Castro in a book about her life in Cuba and in regular Spanish radio shows in Miami. So it's questionable just how close she is to Fidel's religious thinking these days.

But in an interview in Italy's second-largest paper, La Repubblica, she claims Fidel has moved back to his long-lost religion. Here's how ABC News translates the interview:

"During this last period, Fidel has come closer to religion: he has rediscovered Jesus at the end of his life. It doesn't surprise me because dad was raised by Jesuits."

An unnamed Vatican official chimes in to say that Pope Benedict also expects a warm welcome from Castro when the two meet in Havana on March 27:

"Fidel is at the end of his strength. Nearly at the end of his life. His exhortations in the party paper Granma, are increasingly less frequent. We know that in this last period he has come closer to religion and God."

Is it true? Could Fidel have rediscovered his long lost faith?

He's certainly on better terms with the church than he was in 1962, when he was officially excommunicated for imprisoning church leaders; he welcomed Pope John Paul II to Cuba 1998.

And in the past two years, Castro has been more receptive to releasing political prisoners at the urging of Cuba's bishop.

Still, the idea of Castro humbly confessing his sins to Pope Benedict is tough to imagine. If he does, Benedict better clear his schedule for a few hours. How many Hail Marys does, "I've been a dictator for four decades" carry?

Update: Here's the letter Fernandez sent Riptide. We've left her a voicemail as well; we'll update the post again if we have a chance to speak with her.

I was interested to read (your) article ... particularly since I have never said any such thing to anyone, much less La Repubblica or ABC News. I left Cuba many years ago, and have no idea if he has "found Jesus" and would not be able to speculate about my father's supposed desire for "forgiveness" or even his chances of "eternal damnation." (Your) article contains other comments that are either intentionally false or poorly researched. I have never in my life, even as a child, referred to my father as "dad."

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