HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban capital once again has its iconic Christ figure watching over Havana Bay. Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the head of the Catholic Church on the island, blessed the famous marble statue on Thursday after almost ten months of restoration, church sources said.
“I think we can call this a new sculpture, because the moment in history in which it has been repositioned is new and very different from when it was first was erected and placed here,” said Ortega (who is also the archbishop of Havana) when blessing the statue, reported DPA news.
According to religious sources, Cuban officials invited the cardinal to speak on this occasion. In recent years the Catholic Church has become a major actor on the island and an interlocutor of the Raul Castro government.
Especially after the visit of John Paul II in 1998, Catholics on the island returned to openly practicing their faith after decades of hostilities.
In March of last year, Pope Benedict XVI became the second pope to visit the Caribbean island.
The restoration project has taken place “in another century and on a path that is being increasingly renewed in many ways, economically but also in other senses,” said Ortega.
The marble sculpture of the Christ of Havana stands on the hill of the San Carlos de la Cabaña fortress, across the bay from the city. The emblematic figure is also close to the Morro lighthouse, another Havana historical landmark.
The statue, according to the Catholic magazine Palabra Nuevo, was officially inaugurated on December 25, 1958, just days before the triumph of Fidel Castro’s revolution. The Christ of Havana is made of marble from the Carrara region in Italy, the publication added.
Present on the occasion was the apostolic nuncio in Cuba, Monsignor Bruno Musaro, among other ecclesiastical authorities.
Also participating was Colonel Henry Perez Martinez, the director of the Cuban Military-Historical Museum Complex, which was in charge of the restoration. The ceremony took place in the small plaza at the foot of the monument.