“The Pope’s Worst Nightmare”: Chapter 2 of ‘The Pope, His Chamberlain, the Jinetera & Fidel’

Protestors against the Pinochet regime during the Mass of John Paul II in Chile’s main soccer stadium

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This is one of the chapters with firm grounding in reality. The pope’s nightmare is based on the report of what happened during his 1987 trip to Chile. In their biography (His Holiness: John Paul and the hidden history of our time) Carl Bernstein and Marco Politi described the papal Mass in the national soccer stadium as follows:

Pinochet staged a massive intervention using armored cars, jeeps, policemen with nightsticks and shields, water cannons, and tear gas to combat 700 demonstrators shouting slogans against the dictatorship and throwing stones at police stationed o the edge of the park. The demonstrators, who belonged to the extreme left-wing party Mir and to organizations of young dissidents allied with the Chilean Communist Party, were a tiny fraction of the 700,000 worshipers present at the mass. But the general wanted to make a point. Police charged demonstrators who were burning tires to shield themselves and crashed through the crowd of the faithful. Beneath the altar where the pope was celebrating mass, soldiers in jeeps cut circular swaths. Journalists, pilgrims, and priests who tried to block them were run over and injured. The tear gas fumes even reached the altar, where John Paul II, his eyes red and his throat burning, skipped whole sections of his homily on reconciliation, while his personal physician gave him water and salt to fight off the poisonous air.

“Love is stronger than hate!” shouoted John Paul II, while around him thousands of fear-stricken spectators cried out, “Save the pope!” Six hundred people were injured. All the political parties, including the socialists and Communists, denounced the actions of the security forces, calling their response a provocation. Cardinal Fresno and the president of the Chilean bishops conference, however, issued a communique identifying the police as the chief victims and blaming the demonstrators. It said the demonstrators had tried to prevent those in attendance from expressing their beliefs and had offended the pope. “We protest against this incredible assault, which meant blows and wounds to carabineros, papal guards, journalists, priests, and the faithful.” Not a word was said about police brutality, which had been witnessed by the entire international press corps.

“Priest & Prostitute”: Chapter One of My Novel: The Pope, His Chamberlain, the Jinetera, and Fidel

For the introduction and prologue, please click here.

The Pope, His Chamberlain, the Jinetera, and Fidel. Part One: Rome. Chapter One, “Priest & Prostitute”

My Audio Novel: The Pope, His Chamberlain, The Jinetera & Fidel

Today, I begin a recording of a novel I wrote more than 20 years ago. At my current age of 81, I just want to get the book out in the public in some form while I still can. The novel is called The Pope, His Chamberlain, The Jinetera & Fidel.

It’s a fictional story about Pope John Paul II’s actual 1997 trip to Cuba. I repeat: it’s a fictional story. So, don’t go accusing the sainted pope of the moral failing I place at the story’s center.

On the other hand, the tale was inspired by my own actual first journey to Cuba in the summer of 1996. It reflects what I learned there during a two-week stay under the auspices of the Greater Cincinnati Council of World Affairs – again, the first of many sojourns for me in the adopted home of Che Guevara and Assata Shakur. I’ve visited Cuba more than a dozen times since.

I originally wrote the book as a virtual vehicle for taking my friends and students to Cuba — to expose them to what I experienced during the 1990s “special period” there — and to clear up common misperceptions about life on the island. It was during the ’90s that U.S. sanctions coupled with the fall of the Soviet Union (and Cuba’s loss in the process of 85% of its trading partners) made life nearly unbearable for the Cuban people.

Today, something similar is transpiring for Cubans. The COVID-19 pandemic along with intensified U.S. sanctions have once again brought the tiny nation to its knees. (Hence the protests we’ve all heard so much about.) So, Cuba today is very similar to the Cuba of the last century’s final decade which is the novel’s setting.

The book’s relevance also stems from its indirect exposition of liberation theology, which I consider the most important theological development of the last 1500 years. Pope John Paul II was its foremost opponent. I’d like readers to come away with a better understanding of that theology and social movements it inspired. 

Here’s my bottom line: though largely fictional, the descriptions I’ve portrayed here are true in that many of them reflect my own experience. In the introductions to relevant chapters, I’ll emphasize those non-fictional details.

In any case, I hope that you’ll enjoy to some degree what I’ll read here – a chapter more or less each day for the next month or so.

So, get ready. Here it is: the opening of The Pope, His Chamberlain, the Jinetera, and Fidel.

(By the way, as a work still in progress, the book begs for suggestions about improving or changing it. So feel free to offer advice.)

The Pope, His Chamberlain, the Jinetera, and Fidel: Prologue

Episode 2: My Meeting with Marianne Williamson

FYI, here’s my second episode of the podcast I’m starting on A Course in Miracles for social justice activists. I’m still struggling with the technology of it all. But the podcast site looks like this: https://acimforactivists.com/ Please check it out and maybe become a follower there. It’s going to get better, I promise.

Scroll down on the site and you’ll see the first episode too. I’m currently working on installment 3.