Fidel Castro looks frail in meeting with pope

Fidel Castro met with Benedict after Pope's Mass

Published On: Mar 28 2012 02:32:03 PM EDT   Updated On: Mar 29 2012 12:22:21 AM EDT
HAVANA -

Details were not immediately available on what was said between Pope Benedict XVI and Fidel Castro, but what was more salient to some was how the dictator looked: frail. 

The 85-year-old former Cuban leader seemed to have trouble making it across the room to greet the pontiff, who celebrated Mass in Havana's Revolution Square on Wednesday morning.

Dr. Jose Azel, a Cuban-American expert at the University of Miami, said that getting a straight answer about the former dictator's health likely won't happen. 

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"He's an 85-year-old man, and he's had health issues. Whether he's cognizant or not is in question," he said. 

In July 2006, Castro underwent intestinal surgery and stopped making public appearances when he handed power to his brother, Raul. 

In 2009, new photographs surfaced days after reports that he was on his deathbed. The photos showed Castro standing in a blue track suit and holding the arm of Argentine President Christine Fernandez during a visit.  

Castro sightings would follow; his last appearance before Wednesday was in Havana where he promoted his memoir called "Guerrilla of Time." 

Castro's appearance with the pontiff fueled more speculation that he is ailing. 

"He looked bad," said one Cuban-American outside Versailles Restaurant in Little Havana. 

One question that remains is whether Cuba's Communist revolution will outlast Fidel Castro. 

"At some point, we may actually see a genuine transition. We haven't seen that yet, but perhaps a good parallel is what happened in Russia. We had a couple of generals; one died after the other, until eventually a true reformer emerged in leadership. Perhaps something like that will happen in Cuba. When, obviously, is anyone's guess," Azel said.