.- Nearly five thousand Cubans gathered in Havana on September 8, the feast of Our Lady of Charity, the country’s patroness, to take part in a procession and Mass led by Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino, who offered prayers for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Similar expressions of faith were seen across Cuba, where the government authorized 60 processions for the Marian feast. One of the largest took place in the capital, where Cubans of all ages filled the streets, which were decorated with flowers and colorful banners. A replica of the statue of Our Lady of Charity led the procession and was met with thunderous applause as it was carried through the streets.
During his homily, Cardinal Ortega mentioned the terrible destruction caused by the hurricane and said the Catholic Church in Cuba is united “in prayer and in support” with those who have been affected.
“There is a huge and painful human problem that is very difficult. All those people who are suffering need prayer and psychological support, and we support them with our hearts,” he said.
Likewise, the cardinal warned, “the human person, faced with a difficult trial, can become terribly hardened, aggressive and violent, but at the same time we see examples of friendship, confraternity, of people committed to helping others.”
According to the cardinal, “this is the path we must always take in life, although we may experience trials and difficulties, limitations and sometimes misery, we cannot live solely in discontent, which will make us bitter.”
Cardinal Ortega prayed to Our Lady of Charity that love would prevail “among all the families of the island, for all the people, for those who govern us” and for “Cubans who live outside the country because they have established residence in other places, for the Virgin is Mother of us all.”
The Miami Herald reported that 12,000 people gathered on September 8 at Miami Arena for a solemn Mass in honor of the patroness of Cuba celebrated by Archbishop John Favarola. Archbishop Juan Garcia Rodriguez of Camagüey, Cuba, gave the homily. Archbishop Garcia also prayed to Mary for “refuge, consolation and hope” for the victims of Katrina, and he prayed for political prisoners and for the re-establishment “of the kingdom of God in Cuba.”
“We bring our political prisoners before Our Lady of Charity and we pray they receive the wine of freedom and of a greater presence of prison ministry,” said the archbishop, whose father was a political prisoner in Cuba. He also prayed to Our Lady of Charity for “the bishops of Cuba, who live, evangelize, suffer and struggle to reestablish the kingdom of God in Cuba.”
On the eve of the Marian feast, Radio Paz, the local Catholic station in Miami, held a radiothon in order to raise money for hurricane victims. Some of the money will be used to repair the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity in Miami, which was hit by Hurricane Katrina before it passed into the Gulf of Mexico.