Archbishop Wenski invoked the prayers of Our Lady of Charity, patroness of Cuba

The Archbishop of Miami has recalled the suffering of persecuted Catholics in Cuba following the death of Fidel Castro.

On the day the news of Fidel Castro’s death spread, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami was one of the first Catholic Church officials to respond.

“Fidel Castro is dead,” he wrote in a statement. “The death of this figure should lead us to invoke the patroness of Cuba, the Virgin of Charity, calling for peace for Cuba and its people.”

Later that day at Ermita de la Caridad, a Miami shrine that honours Cuba’s patron Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre he spoke about the persecuted people of Cuba and encouraged those gathered to prayer to Cuba’s patroness.

“She has accompanied the Cuban people for more than 400 years,” he said, including during the country’s battle for independence and she “suffered with the church when the Marxist obscurantism wounded and decimated (the Church).”

She has been there in good times and in times of turmoil, in the Cuban prisons and in the agricultural “forced labour camps” the Cuban government operated, he added.

Referencing recent moments in the history of the island when Catholics hid their faith fearing persecution by a government and a society that looked down on religion, he said the Virgin was present in the prayer cards people hid in their dressers, as church members were “forced to survive by publicly denying their devotion.”

And Mary is there with those who, despite all the challenges they have faced, continue to pass on the gift of faith to their children and grandchildren on the island.

She remains on the island today, he said, and continues to lavish her motherly love “in prisons that still are not empty and in the midst of women who walk demanding freedom.”

Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre is present, Archbishop Wenski said, with those inside and outside Cuba, who “fight for respect for human dignity and to establish a future of freedom, justice and peace.”

Reflecting on the legacy of Fidel Castro he said: “The Cuban people are a noble people, but also a people who suffer. And now, on the eve of this first Sunday of Advent, to emphasise the words of Christ ‘at the hour you least expect, the Son of Man will come,’ we have learned that Fidel Castro has died.”

He continued: “Each human being, each of us, will die. We will all be judged one day. Today, it is his (Fidel Castro’s) turn. God’s judgment is merciful, but it doesn’t cease to be just.”