Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Regard for Catholicism

BOND: Now, from time to time, you’ve referenced God and you mentioned attending the Catholic church. What’s your religion mean to you?

RANGEL: Well, I was on the way to Cuba with Cardinal [John] O’Connor. I was the only lay person on the plane, but they knew I could get them an appointment with Castro, with Fidel Castro. It was the same trip that the Pope had so he came to the back of the plane and complimented me for the work that I do for the poor but said he was very disappointed that I’d forgotten my catechism and the real tenets of the church and that he was willing, because he admired the other work I was doing, to work with me to have a better understandings of the work of Jesus Christ. And I just thought that he should know that I’d been around the world so many times and had been exposed to so many religious beliefs and I didn’t know it would annoy him when I said, "I don’t want to take any chances up there. You know, they may not be taking Catholic tickets." And I certainly didn’t want a whole lot of priests helping me out when I was negotiating and I mean that with all of my heart. There’s no way in the world for me to believe that God would take the time to make all these wonderful people with all these different philosophical beliefs and that only one block is going to get in, so that’s why I spoke directly to Jesus when I was in trouble because I did speak in English and in Latin, however, but whatever happened, it worked well.