By ARMANDO MACHADO
In a passionate homily message, a Cuban-born bishop called on the people of his beloved Caribbean nation to continue fighting for justice and peace, and to pray for the intercession of Our Lady of Charity del Cobre, patron saint of Cuba.
“We are here to commemorate the Solemnity of Our Lady of Charity del Cobre,” Auxiliary Bishop Manuel A. Cruz of the Archdiocese of Newark said during the annual Mass of Our Lady of Charity del Cobre. Cobre on September 5 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
“I feel very blessed to be here with all of you, the Hispanic community; Cuban brothers and sisters. Thanks for your presence.
Bishop Cruz, who served as the main celebrant, underlined the special gratitude he felt for the cathedral that was made available to the Cuban community to come together and pray “for freedom, for justice and for peace “. He noted that it had been “a year of hope, a year of dreams”, alluding to the massive summer protests that erupted in Cuba, protests in which protesters demanded release from decades of repression. .
“We cannot remain silent,” said the bishop. “We have to shout the truth; we have to cry out that we want freedom. We want the pain and oppression of the past 62 years to end … Enough! ”
He said the message from protesters in Cuba this summer was: “We would rather die in the streets saying what we have in our hearts, rather than starve.” He added: “We have heard in today’s Gospel reading (Luke 14) how Christ sought out those who are suffering; he healed a man that couldn’t hear, and then the man could hear the Good News of salvation.
Bishop Cruz, 67, came from Cuba with his parents in 1966 when he was 12 years old. “God created us free … My parents brought me to this country, to this earth, to live in freedom”, explained the bishop. “For many of us here we have our own stories of pain and separation … Today I say thank you to God and thank you to this great country, the United States of America. In 1966, they opened the doors and took us in as refugees. As it is said in the Psalms, the Lord is my refuge, my rock, my strength.
The end of the 18-minute homily was greeted with cheers and applause.
In Cuba, unprecedented protests erupted in July, with many demanding long-denied social freedoms and expressing anger and frustration at economic and societal deterioration, a situation made worse by the pandemic. This was followed by a big government crackdown with numerous arrests. In Miami, many members of the larger Cuban-American community publicly demonstrated their solidarity with fellow Cubans on the island.
Here in New York City, Cobre’s Mass this year at the cathedral served as a time and place for many Cubans in the metro area to come together in prayer and solidarity, knowing that there is urgent importance given of the unrest and violent repression that erupted in their beloved nation this summer.
Cecilia Soler, president of the archdiocesan committee Nuestra Señora de Caridad del Cobre, was among the readers during the prayer of the faithful, which included petitions for the improvement of the lives of Cubans. At one point, as she spoke, she was overcome with tearful emotion. Bishop Cruz then approached her and placed his left arm on her shoulder in a gentle gesture of comfort; and Mrs. Soler continued to read.
Later in closing remarks, Ms. Soler spoke words of sincere gratitude for the Mass. Ms. Soler, in an interview last month with Cathollic New York, said the suffering of the past 62 years under Cuban government has been “very painful, what happened in Cuba and what is happening. My hope is that the regime ends, but there is a lot of repression. “
After Mass, Mrs. Soler distributed flowers that had adorned a statue of Our Lady of Charity del Cobre on the steps of the altar. Junior Rodriguez, 52, was nearby and told CNY, “I’m Cuban and this (the homily) really touched me. I miss my country. I have been here for over 25 years. Seeing all the recent events in Cuba, it breaks my heart; that’s where I was born and raised. The message was really deep; it was very moving … My father was a political prisoner in Cuba, he now lives in Miami. Rodriguez is a parishioner of St. Ignatius of Loyola in Manhattan.
Also after the liturgy, Lourdes Garcia, member of the Committee of Our Lady of Charity del Cobre, told CNY: “It was a beautiful message from the bishop. It was moving, it was for the Cuban community. He spoke from his heart as a Cuban refugee … I was a Marielita (Mariel boat lift from the port of Mariel in Cuba, 1980). ”
The 16 hour liturgy in Spanish brought together around 800 people. The concelebrants included Mgr. Robert Ritchie, rector of the cathedral; Father Lorenzo Ato, Director of Communications of the Hispanic Ministry of the Archdiocese; and Father Brian McWeeney, Director of Ethnic Apostolates and Church Movements.