In Cuba, unprecedented protests began July 11 with many people demanding long-denied social liberties and expressing anger and frustration over economic and societal deterioration.
In Miami, many in the large Cuban-American community stand in solidarity with fellow Cubans of the Caribbean island.
In New York, the annual Mass of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre, patroness of Cuba, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral will draw many Cubans from the New York metro area who know the Mass will have an urgent significance given the dire unrest that has erupted in their beloved nation—with special, fervent prayers for peace and justice.
The Mass will be offered Sunday, Sept. 5, at 4 p.m.
“We expect a massive attendance, not just Cubans but people from all over Latin America where the Virgin Mary is venerated,” said Cecilia Soler, president of the archdiocesan Caridad del Cobre committee, in her native Spanish in a phone interview with Catholic New York last week.
“But we do not like to mix politics with what is religious. We will speak as always about the significance that the Caridad del Cobre has for us.”
Ms. Soler noted that the crisis in Cuba will be mentioned given the sufferings of the past 62 years under the governmental regime. “It is very painful, what has happened in Cuba and what is happening,” she said. “My hope is that the regime ends, but there is much repression; they have arms, the people have rocks.” She said that like most people she was surprised by the large protests that erupted given the decades of fear, and she added, “I pray every day. I pray to the Lord and I pray to the Virgin of Charity of Cobre.”
Cardinal Dolan made a six-day pastoral visit to Cuba in February 2020, a month before the Covid-19 lockdowns began. In an interview with CNY afterward, Ms. Soler said, “We Cubans have suffered very much...For the Cuban Catholics this (visit) was very good—this visit by the cardinal, because they have received a great show of support from him. This shows unity in the Church.”
The archdiocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry helps organize the Caridad del Cobre Mass and other annual cathedral Masses that celebrate the Catholic faith with Hispanic/Latino cultural traditions. Father Lorenzo Ato, the office’s communications director, said of the crisis in Cuba, “We are worried how this has greatly affected Cuba at this difficult moment. We are praying for their beloved country.”
Father Ato also noted, “We pray for their well-being and for their care through the intercession of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre, so that she may bring for them peace, reconciliation and love, as well as understanding among all the communities in Cuba. And we remember the words of St. John Paul II: Cuba should open itself to the world and the world should open itself to Cuba.”
Wanda Vasquez, director of Hispanic Ministry, said that here in the tri-state area, there are small Cuban communities in Queens and in Newark. Within the Archdiocese of New York, there are smaller ones in Westchester, Orange and Ulster counties.
Ms. Vasquez pointed to a July 13 joint statement released by four Cuban-American bishops affirming solidarity with the protesters in Cuba. The bishops are Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadelphia, Bishop Felipe Estevez of St. Augustine, Fla.; Auxiliary Bishop Manuel Cruz of Newark, and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Octavio Cisneros of Brooklyn.
The bishops said in part, “Their chant of ‘Libertad’ underscores their desire for every Cuban citizen to enjoy basic human rights, as recognized as part of our human dignity by the United Nations, and defended for centuries by the Catholic Church in its social teachings.”
The declaration also said, “As always, together with our brother-bishops in Cuba, and our brothers and sisters inside and outside the island, we continue to place our trust in the motherly gaze of the patroness of Cuba, Our Lady of Charity.”
In a July 12 statement, the Catholic bishops of Cuba expressed concern over the urgency of the times given the Covid-19 crisis; the well-being of people on the island; and the need for “the pursuit of truth and the common good.” And they prayed for the intercession of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre, “always a wellspring of reconciliation.''