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Fidel Castro and John Paul II are but men, and both will soon pass from the scene. More important is the fate of the faiths they so passionately espouse. Christianity is about to be 2,000 years old. Cuba's revolutionary government is barely 39. One day, perhaps even his last day, Castro will summon his 24-member Politburo and formally anoint the one who will rule Cuba next. John Paul II has no such power: his successor will be chosen in secret conclave by the 100 or so Princes of the Church. But it will matter far less who that particular individual is. The Catholic Church will survive the death of the 264th Pope, its institutions and its beliefs far stronger than any single man. Few believe the disfigured Cuban revolution can outlive Fidel Castro.
--With reporting by Tammerlin Drummond and Aixa M. Pascual/Havana, Greg Burke/Rome, Richard N. Ostling/New York and Douglas Waller/Washington