Entrusting the new Cuban seminary to Our Lady of Charity, Pope Benedict in a message invited Cuban seminarians to identify themselves with Christ the Good Shepherd through prayer and study.
The new headquarters of the archdiocesan seminary of St. Charles and St. Ambrose was inaugurated on Wednesday. It is a complex of salmon-colored buildings organized around a chapel with stained glass windows located about five miles south of Havana.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Holy See’s Secretary of State, delivered Pope Benedict XVI’s message at the opening of the seminary.
The Holy Father said in his message that he hopes the inaugural may be simultaneously “a sign and a stimulus for a renewed commitment to strive for the careful human, spiritual and academic preparation” of those preparing for the priestly ministry.
He invited the seminarians to identify themselves with “the sentiments of Christ the Good Shepherd” by means of “assiduous prayer,” serious dedication to study, “humbly” listening to the divine Word, and dignified celebration of the sacraments. He advised them to be “courageous witnesses” to God’s love as “authentic disciples and missionaries of the Gospel of salvation.”
Pope Benedict extended a blessing to all those who have contribute to the building’s construction.
He also entrusted the seminary to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, noting Cuba’s devotion to her under the title Our Lady of Charity.
The seminary’s predecessor had been seized by Cuban authorities in 1966 and turned into a military barracks and then a police academy.
About 75 percent of the island nation’s priests left after the communist revolution. However, relations between Church and State have improved in recent years.
President Raul Castro attended the Wednesday ceremony and toured the facility.
“In the name of the Church, I thank the former president as well as current President Raul Castro, who honors us with his presence, for the state’s support of this work, to its completion,” Cardinal Archbishop of Havana Jaime Ortega said at the ceremony, according to Reuters.
Also in attendance were bishops from the Vatican and Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami.