January 3, 1962 – Pope John XXIII excommunicates Fidel Castro.
Castro, Cuba’s “maximum leader,” was excommunicated supposedly on the basis of a 1949 decree by Pope Pius XII forbidding Catholics from supporting communist governments.
Archbishop Dino Staffa, who at the time was a member of the Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and wrote the decree, alleged the reasons were not related to supporting Castro’s support of communism, but to having committed or collaborated in acts of violence against the Catholic hierarchy.
Indeed, months prior to the excommunication, Bishop Eduardo Roza Masvidal and 135 priests had been expelled from Cuba. In his declaration, Archbishop Staffa made reference to this and to various other problems existing at the time with regard to the Catholic Church in Cuba.
Torinella wonders whether the declaration, which coincided with a broader message John XXIII send to Castro, was an attempt to balance the effect of the Pope’s words could have–which some considered too expansive–while also reminding other Catholic political leaders what canon law had in store for those who would conspire against or bring harm to the Catholic hierarchy.
In 2013, Poste Vaticane, the postal service of Vatican City, issued a stamp honoring Pope John XXIII.
In 1962, the Cuban postal service, Correos de Cuba, issued a stamp with a portrait of Castro.