This past Wednesday, September 8, feast of the Birth of Mary, Catholics in Cuba celebrated the feast of their country’s patroness, Our Lady of Charity, with nearly 50 processions taking place across the island, while thousands of Cubans in other countries held their own celebrations in honor of the patroness of their homeland.
Although the Cuban government allowed the Bishop of Cienfuegos, Emilio Aranguren, to make a brief statement on local radio, at least four requests to organize celebrations were denied, including that of the Diocese of Santa Clara, according to Orlando Marquez, spokesman for the Bishops Conference of Cuba.
At the shrine of Our Lady of Charity in Cobre, spouses, mothers and daughters of the 75 dissidents currently imprisoned by the Castro regime, all dressed in white, participated in the primary celebration.
The day before, the “Women in White” also marched in procession together with 15,000 people across fifteen blocks of downtown Havana, led by a statue of Our Lady and Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino.
“We decided to come together to pray to our Lady of Charity for freedom and freedom alone for our family members,” said Blanca Reyes, wife of the dissident poet Raul Rivero and promoter of the vigil. Martha Beatriz Roque, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison but was recently released for health reasons, also joined in the prayers.
The participants in the procession in Havana began their walk under an intense sun, while all along the procession route hundreds of faithful dropped yellow flowers from balconies onto the path in front of the pilgrim statue.
The procession ended at the parish of Our Lady of Charity, where Cardinal Ortega called on the faithful to revive family values in the country.
“Often times material necessities smother us and limit us to trying to meet these immediate necessities, making us forget about other values, family values, those that are constant and that raise the spirit,” he said.
As is custom, a replica of the statue of Our Lady of Charity was transported by boat from the Hermitage of Our Lady of Charity in Coconut Grove to the American Airlines Arena, for a Mass in her honor.
Retired Auxiliary Bishop of Miami, Agustin Roman, founder of the Hermitage, accompanied the replica of the Cobre statue, which has been venerated by Cubans in Miami since 1961.
The Mass at the Arena was celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop of Miami Felipe de Jesus Estevez.
“The Cuban people on both shores suffer from fatigue and discouragement,” he said. “We don’t understand why it is taking so long for the necessary changes to come about. We don’t understand why solidarity with those who suffer in Cuba, especially with prisoners of conscience, is so timid and limited. We don’t understand why fear and sorrow are so powerful and paralyzing,” he added.
“Today we proclaim that Cuba also deserves to live in democracy and with human rights, freedom, prosperity and social peace, with all and for the good of all,” Bishop Estevez also said.
The statue venerated by Cubans in Miami, a replica of the original, was secretly transported from the Cuban city of Guanabo, near Havana, to Miami on September 8, 1961.