Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Archbishop of Havana for 34 years, dies at 82

GettyImages 528938412 Ortega The late Cardinal Jaime Ortega celebrates his last Mass as Archbishop of Havana May 7, 2016. | AFP/Getty Images.

Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, who served as Archbishop of Havana for more than 34 years, died Friday at the age of 82 after a months-long battle with cancer.

The Cuban cardinal oversaw the papal visits of John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis to the island during his tenure, playing a principal role in the dialogue between the U.S. and Cuba brokered by Pope Francis in 2014.

Pope Francis offered his condolences and prayers for the eternal rest of the deceased in a telegram released by the Vatican July 27 and sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin the day prior.

Born in the diocese of Matanzas, Cuba in 1936, Ortega was the son of a laborer in a sugar factory before he entered the seminary one year into his studies in university.

Two years after his ordination in 1964, Ortega was detained in a labor camp for eight months by Cuba's Communist government. Upon his release, he was reappointed as a parish priest in his home diocese and later served as a teacher of moral theology in the interdiocesan seminary in Havana.

Pope John Paul II named Ortega Bishop of Pinar del Rio in Dec. 1978 and then Archbishop of Havana in 1981, where he served until Pope Francis accepted his resignation in 2016.

Ortega oversaw many pastoral and charitable initiatives in the Archdiocese of Havana, including rebuilding more than 40 churches and parish houses and building two centers for youth ministry.

In 1991 he helped with the founding of Caritas Cuba, one of the few independent non-governmental organizations in the country.

Ortega was named a cardinal in 1994 and participated in the conclaves that elected Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

Cardinal Ortega "served the Church and his brothers in the various offices entrusted to him by Providence," Cardinal Parolin wrote July 26 following Ortega's death.

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