After celebrating his 87th birthday last week, semi-retired communist dictator Fidel Castro did something nobody expected him to do: He contacted Pope Francis to hear his confession.
"Forgive me, pontiff, for I have sinned. Is 65 years since last confession."
"Sixty-five years!" said the pontiff. "This is going to be a long one. Go on, Fidel."
"As a boy, I once cheat on an exam."
"As a teen, I once steal a melon from market."
"And in 1959, I and my rebel forces squash evil dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista so common man could share wealth of great Cuba, and to ensure sharing, I imprison and kill my enemies, seize most property and become new dictator of Cuba!"
"Have you ever considered cutting back on your caffeine, Fidel?"
"Then in 1961, great Fidel rise against Yankee imperialists and win victory at Bay of Pigs! For many years, Fidel squash American attempts to dispose of him. And today, Fidel's great revolution continues! In my country, wealth is shared between rich and poor."
"Wealth, Fidel. What wealth?"
"Cuba boasts largest fleet of 1950 Studebakers in all of Caribbean."
"Look, Fidel, confession is about truth. The truth is that your country is a wreck. Your buildings are falling down. Your people eat scraps. Nobody has ever ridden a flotilla from Miami to your shores."
"What you getting at, pontiff?"
"You, sir, are on the wrong side of truth and history. How many communist countries have to fall before you realize that central planning doesn't work?"
"Pontiff, you speak words of American capitalist pigs!"
"Hel-loooo! Anybody home? Fidel, the Soviet Union has unraveled. Your $5 billion annual stipend is gone. Yet while your people live in squalor, you live in splendor, drinking wine and sleeping on silk sheets."
"Dictator must keep up appearances."
"But not only are your people poor economically, you have bankrupted them spiritually."
"You discouraged the practice of religion, Fidel. You seized paintings of Jesus Christ from your people's homes. You shut down the Catholic schools, even though you received an excellent education in one. And only in the later years of your dictatorship did you begin allowing people to worship God openly."
"With all due respect, pontiff, your mythical God is not solution to any problem. All problems are economic. Only reason Cuba not richer is because of evil American embargo against my people!"
"Fidel, I dislike the U.S. embargo because it hurts the poor worst of all. But the primary reason your people suffer is because of you. You have imposed a system on them that stifles freedom, creativity and spirituality."
"But Fidel's revolution not complete! You will see, pontiff! Day will come when forces of history overturn your mythical God and Cuba's classless society be heaven on Earth!"
"Look, Fidel. There is right and there is wrong, and each is measured by our God. Whether or not you believe in God, the only way to prosper and be at peace is to align ourselves with human truth."
"America is far from perfect, but its political system is closer to truth than yours is, Fidel. Freedom is the only path to prosperity. And if you set your people free, great things will follow."
"Fidel thanks pontiff for hearing confession, but Fidel can never agree with you."
"And I cannot complete your confession if you are not contrite. All I can say is that it is good that you allow your people to hang pictures of Jesus Christ in their homes again."
"Pictures of Jesus Christ? But Fidel thought they were pictures of Fidel!"
©2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of "Misadventures of a 1970's Childhood" and "Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!" is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact [email protected] Send comments to Tom at [email protected]