In the exercise of his functions, Cardinal Evaristo Arns, former Archbishop of São Paulo, Brazil, sent a letter of congratulations to Fidel Castro on the 30th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution.
In November 1988 the letter was delivered to Castro by Friar Betto, one of the Brazilian leaders of Liberation Theology. The official organ of the Cuban Communist Party, Granma, published that letter on January 6, 1989. Some days after, the Brazilian press published it as well.
Given the surprising content of the correspondence, doubts arose whether the letter was authentic. Soon afterwards, however, Friar Leonardo Boff, also present in Havana, confirmed that he had witnessed its delivery to Castro. Boff added that the latter sent a copy of the letter to Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana before passing it to the Granma. Cardinal Ortega granted his approval for its publication.
The polemic on the authenticity of the document continued until Cardinal Arns himself publicly confirmed that he had written the letter (second clipping below right). He added that he had sent a copy to the Vatican as well.
At right, the clipping of O Estado de São Paulo (Jan. 19, 1989), where the full text of the letter is reproduced; below right, a news report (Jan. 25, 1989) where the Cardinal confirms he wrote the letter; below left, our translation from the Portuguese of the highlighted parts.
São Paulo, Christmas 1988
My dearest Fidel,
Peace and good will.
I take advantage of Friar Betto's trip to send an embrace to you and salute the Cuban people on the occasion of this 30th anniversary of the Revolution. We all know the heroism and sacrifice of the people of your country in resisting internal aggressions and eradicating misery, illiteracy and chronic social problems. Today Cuba can feel proud to be an example of social justice on our continent, so impoverished by external debt.
In the conquest of the [Cuban] Revolution, the Christian Faith discovers the signs of the kingdom of God that manifests itself in our hearts and in the structures that allow us to make our political conviviality a work of love ...
Unfortunately, favorable conditions still do not exist for a meeting to take place between us ... I have you present daily in my prayers, and I ask the Father to grant you the grace always to steer the destinies of your country.
Receive my fraternal embrace at the festivities for the 30th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution ...
Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns
(Top, O Estado de São Paulo, January 19, 1989 - Bottom, O Estado de São Paulo, January 25, 1989)