The Bishops’ Conference of Cuba announced this week that the Castro government authorized 60 processions to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Charity, the patroness of Cuba, but denied permission for another 12 processions.
According to a statement from the Press Office of the Conference, the authorized processions will be taking place in 8 of the 11 dioceses in the country.
The statement also notes that “on this occasion seven requests to celebrate religious processions have been denied for not being “suitable.”
Another five requests were denied the Archdiocese of Camagüey because of “a lack of tradition” in some cases, and because “a procession in the same municipality had already been authorized.”
At the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, Archbishop Pedro Meurice of Santiago de Cuba celebrated Mass on Thursday morning and blessed the Shrine’s new bells, which were donated by the bishops of Italy. Hours earlier, hundreds of young people processed from the city of Santiago to the Shrine at El Cobre.
On Tuesday Archbishop Meurice told Radio Marti that the number of faithful coming to El Cobre in the days leading up to the feast was “extraordinary,” and he extended his greetings “to all Cubans, wherever they are,” reminding them that the celebration is “a symbol, a sign that we are one people, because we gather together during these days under the protection of Our Lady of Charity.”
One of the most important processions will be led Thursday by Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino in Havana. The cardinal will also celebrate a Mass.
For decades the government of Cuba outlawed Catholic processions, but after the visit by Pope John Paul II in 1998 the government eased restrictions.
In Miami, where the greatest number of Cubans resides outside of the island, hundreds will gather September 8 at Miami Arena at 7pm for a Mass concelebrated by Archbishop John Clement Favarola of Miami and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Agustin Roman.
In Madrid the Spanish Center for Cubans has organized two Masses. The main celebration will take place at the Church of Santo Domingo El Real, and the other will take place at the Convent of the Royal Discalced, where there is a statue of Our Lady of Charity that was brought from Cuba by Spanish soldiers after the war of independence.