The transformative power of a new heart.
Mr. Gorbachev’s surprise visit confirmed decades of rumours that, although he was forced to publicly pronounce himself an atheist, he was in fact a Christian, and casts a meeting with Pope John Paul II in 1989 in a new light.
Mr. Gorbachev, 77, was baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church and his parents were Christians.
In addition, the parents of his wife Raisa were deeply religious and were killed during the Second World War for having religious icons in their homes.
Ronald Reagan, the former United States president, allegedly told his close aides on a number of occasions that he felt his opponent during the Cold War was a “closet believer”.
Mr. Reagan held deep religious convictions himself. However, until now Mr. Gorbachev has allowed himself to express only pantheistic views, saying in one interview “nature is my god”.
After his prayers, Mr. Gorbachev toured the Basilica of St Francis and asked, in particular, to be shown an icon of St Francis portraying his “dream at Spoleto”.
St Francis, who lived in the 12th century, was a troubadour and a poet before the spiritual vision caused him to return to Assisi and contemplate a religious life.
Even in his early days, St Francis helped the poor, once giving all of his money to a beggar. As well as spending time in the wilderness, he also nursed lepers and eventually became a priest.
“It was through St Francis that I arrived at the Church, so it was important that I came to visit his tomb,” said Mr. Gorbachev.
Interesting. The one Russian president who interrupted the long chain of exploitation that the Russian people have lived under when he could have done anything but — turns out to have been a closet believer who hid the faith that guided him all along.