Juan Rumin Domínguez* (Café Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES — The Virgen de la Caridad (“Virgin of Charity”) whose replica was enthroned at the Vatican Gardens this past Thursday has a very special significance.
During a ceremony held in the morning of Thursday, an image of Cuba’s patron virgin was placed in an area close to the Jubilee Bell in the presence of 60 attendees, including 10 Cuban bishops. During the function, a prayer was recited and Cardinal Tascisio Bertone, former Secretary of the Vatican State, addressed those present.
The original piece, made of cast bronze and currently located at the Cobre sanctuary in Santiago de Cuba, has a highly significant history for the devout. In the 1950s, it was kept in a small chapel close to Cuba’s Nipe bay, on Los Morales beach, in memory of the location where the original effigy of the Virgen de la Caridad had been found in 1612.
In 1961, according to verified accounts, as a result of hatred towards faith and the efforts to tear religion from the hearts of Cubans made by the Marxist regime, this special place of worship was completely destroyed and the virgin it housed was thought to be lost. We know, however, that it did not vanish magically.
In 1975, a Lebanese-born resident of Cueto, a nearby town, exhumed it from the sand and, a devout man, respectfully took it home with him. The effigy was the object of popular worship in his home until the family decided to emigrate to the United States and the man passed the virgin on to Monsignor Hector Luis Peño. The Monsignor passed the effigy on to the Santiago de Cuba Archbishop, Monsignor Pedro Meurice, who placed it in the Casa de Encuentros of the Cobre Sanctuary.
During the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Cuba, the beautiful effigy was kept in his private chapel.
A replica of this highly symbolic image was enthroned at the Vatican Gardens in the midst of the rekindling of faith in Cuba, reminding us of how the Communist government had tried in vain to bury and put out the faith of the people.
* Rector of Miami’s Caridad Shrine.