Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán shares his reflections & experiences.

Visiting Cuba

This week we saw the passing of Ted Kennedy. I want to share with you a statement we released on his passing Wednesday:

“Today we mourn the passing of Senator Edward M. Kennedy and we extend our heartfelt prayers and sincere condolences to his wife Victoria and their children, Kara, Edward, Patrick, Curran and Caroline. Senator Kennedy was blessed with a dedicated and loving family who stood by his side, particularly during the past year as he faced his illness with courage, dignity and strength.

We join with his colleagues in Congress and the people of Massachusetts in reflecting on his life and his commitment to public service. For nearly half a century, Senator Kennedy was often a champion for the poor, the less fortunate and those seeking a better life. Across Massachusetts and the nation, his legacy will be carried on through the lives of those he served.

We pray for the repose of his soul and that his family finds comfort and consolation in this difficult time.”

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Last week, I traveled to Cuba with a delegation sent by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Father Andrew Small, the secretary for Latin America who administers the annual collection to help projects in the churches in that part of the world, was in charge of this delegation.

The delegation was made up of Bishop Oscar Cantú, the Auxiliary Bishop of San Antonio; Bishop Thomas Wenski, who is the chairperson of the bishop’s Migration and International Policy Committee; and I as a member of the committee on Latin America. My secretary, Father Jonathan Gaspar also accompanied us as staff.

We were there to give support to the local bishops and to become acquainted first-hand with how the aid we sent after last year’s three hurricanes and two tropical storms is being used. We also sought to better understand what their future needs are.

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

 

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

  A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

We had meetings with the bishops, lay leaders and the staff from Caritas Cubana, the Church organization in Cuba which helps the sick and the elderly and also provides emergency relief services.

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

 

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

I want to mention that here in Boston there is an organization, The Friends of Caritas Cubana, that supports their efforts. Each year there is a fundraiser at the home of Consuelo Isaacson, and usually a member of Caritas or one of the Cuban bishops will attend.

While in Havana we also met with the ambassador to the Order of Malta. The order of Malta has diplomatic relations with 60 countries, including Cuba. The Order is involved in programs to help the elderly and to provide medicine and food for people there.

There is a large group of Cuban members of the Order in Miami, but they actually have an ambassador in Cuba itself, a Polish gentleman named Przemyslaw Häuser. He invited us one night for dinner at his embassy, and we had some very interesting discussions. He was a very close friend of Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Stanislaus Dziwisz, Pope John Paul II’s secretary for many, many years. In Poland, he was a filmmaker who made films about the Vatican and about John Paul II.

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

The last time I visited Cuba was when I was visitator to the seminaries. The present seminary for Havana is in the old archbishop’s palace, which was connected to the cathedral and a very inadequate facility for a seminary. There are 60-70 people camped out in this old episcopal residence that is not in the best shape. I was able to visit the site of the new seminary, which will hopefully be opened next year. That project was begun with donations from a benefactor here in Boston.

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

Monday night we toured Havana. It was interesting to see how the government has begun to fix up the old city, which is magnificent. Many people, I am sure, have seen the old city in San Juan, Puerto Rico and how beautiful that is. This is something comparable but much larger, with many more plazas and buildings.

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

 

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

One of the buildings that we visited was the Franciscan church that Father Junípero Serra stayed at on his way to found the missions in California. There is also a plaza and a statue of Our Lady of Pilar, Where the first Mass in the island was celebrated. 

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

 A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

 A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre, the Patroness of Cuba

In restoring the old city, the government is looking to prepare for a jump in the tourist industry. Right now, the largest group of people visiting Cuba are from Canada. The second largest group are Cuban Americans since the government has opened up somewhat and is allowing Americans to visit their relatives there. It is very difficult for other Americans to visit Cuba, and it requires a special license from the State Department.

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

We had interesting meetings with representatives of the government. We discussed how relations between our two countries might improve. We talked about people’s attitudes toward the embargo.

We also spoke about the issue of political prisoners. I raised the question of Dr. Oscar Biscet who has been imprisoned and sentenced to many years, ostensibly because of his opposition to abortion in Cuba.

For their part, the Cuban government wanted to make it known they are upset with the fact that some of the wives of five Cubans who were imprisoned in the U.S. in 2001 have not been given visas to visit their husbands.

So, we had substantial discussions about difficult topics but, all in all, I think that there has been some movement.

We visited the head of the U.S. Interests Section, Jonathan Farrar — a very fine Catholic and career diplomat. It was interesting to learn, though, that he cannot leave Havana and travel to the rest of the country in the same way that the Cuban Interests Section cannot leave Washington. We spoke about things like that that could be changed as gestures of good will.

 A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

With Jonathan Farrar

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

Part of the original memorial to the sinking of the USS Maine

Of course, the best way to describe the atmosphere in Cuba is one of uncertainty. People are concerned and anxious and do not know what the future is going to bring.

There have been attempts on the part of the U.S. government to lower the rhetoric in U.S.-Cuba relations. Meanwhile, the very uncomplimentary signs that used to hang in front of the U.S. Interests Section were recently ordered taken down by the Cuban government. These are both good signs of progress.

Obviously, the U.S. bishops and the Holy See have urged the lifting of the embargo many years ago. And we talked about the help that is given to the Cuban Church by the Catholics in the United States and our gratitude for that. The Catholics in Boston are really the most generous in support of these missions, which may have been one of the reasons I was asked to be part of this delegation.

I have been going to Cuba for the last 25 years at different intervals, and each time I have seen progress. Certainly, the watershed moment was the Holy Father’s visit. In fact, when I went back and visited the seminaries, 90 percent of the seminarians were converts, and they attributed their conversion to the Holy Father’s visit. The number of practicing Catholics is very limited. One of the things I raised with the government was the need for the Church to be able to build new churches in areas that have been developed since the time of the revolution where there are no places of worship.

A delegation of three U.S. Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley visits Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 17-21, 2009.

 

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On Sunday, I had Mass for the Congolese community at St. Mary Parish in Lynn. Msgr. Paul Garrity accompanied us. We were so impressed by the college-aged men who served the Mass and the young women who formed the choir. The Mass was two hours and fifteen minutes in great part because of the singing. The whole service was very celebratory and a joy-filled expression of the Eucharist. I am very grateful to Jackie Kalonji who is the coordinator of that community.

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They also had a wonderful meal afterwards and they gave me a beautiful statue of Our Lady made out of green stone from the Congo called malachite.

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Pilot photo by Gregory L. Tracy

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This week we had an off-site retreat for our cabinet members to have an opportunity to plan and examine our priorities for the archdiocese. The question of evangelization was very central to our conversations as well. It was a very helpful session. We are so blessed to have such talented people on our cabinet.

(08262009)-Dover, MA, Cabinet Retreat Members of Cardinal Seán O'Malley's Cabinet meet at the Connor's Retreat and Conference Center in Dover, MA this past Tuesday and Wednesday. The theme of the retreat was "Enlivening the Mission of the Archdiocese. Photos by George Martell

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Yesterday we honored Sister Clare Bertero, the director of Religious Education, for her many decades of service that are so deeply appreciated.

Farewell gathering for Sister Clare Bertero, Archdiocese of Boston Pastoral Center, Aug. 27, 2009. Pilot photo by Gregory L. Tracy

Farewell gathering for Sister Clare Bertero, Archdiocese of Boston Pastoral Center, Aug. 27, 2009. Pilot photo by Gregory L. Tracy

Farewell gathering for Sister Clare Bertero, Archdiocese of Boston Pastoral Center, Aug. 27, 2009. Pilot photo by Gregory L. Tracy

We were delighted to see the outpouring of affection and regard for her, not only from the people of our archdiocese but also from DREs from other dioceses throughout New England who came to thank her and to celebrate this milestone in her life.

She will be greatly missed and we wish her well.

Farewell gathering for Sister Clare Bertero, Archdiocese of Boston Pastoral Center, Aug. 27, 2009. Pilot photo by Gregory L. Tracy

9 Responses to Visiting Cuba


Comments

  1. Comment by Albert | 2009/08/29 at 11:36:07

    Your Emminence,

    Re Kennedy’s death

    As a member of the faithful, I understand our responsibility to lift up the dead and their family in prayer.

    But with all the attention given to his death, It is dissappointing that your comment doesn’t utilize this as a teachable moment on the moral truths of the Faith many of which Senator Kennedy was blind to. Apparently, he was not always blind to these truths as a letter he wrote (copied below) from 1971 indicating his support for the unborn.

    This letter should be used as a sign that maybe during the final days before his death, he was able to grasp again these truths which he had become blind to over the course of his political career.

    From a letter to Mr. Thomas Donnelly of Great Neck, NY, dated August 3, 1971. Senator Kennedy writes:

    “Dear Mr. Donnelly:

    “I appreciate your letter containing your views on abortion. There are many moral and legal aspects arising from this complex issue which is gaining the acceptance of large numbers of women faced with unwanted pregnancies, while disturbing the consciences of a great many other Americans.

    “Opponents maintain that abortion is wrong from every theological, moral and medical aspect. Proponents are firmly convinced that the woman, alone, has the right to decide.

    “While the deep concern of a woman bearing an unwanted child merits consideration and sympathy, it is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life. Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized — the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old.

    “On the question of the individual’s freedom of choice there are easily available birth control methods and information which women may employ to prevent or postpone pregnancy. But once life has begun, no matter at what stage of growth, it is my belief that termination should not be decided merely by desire.

    “I share the confidence of those who feel that America is willing to care for its unwanted as well as wanted children, protecting particularly those who cannot protect themselves. i also share the opinions of those who do not accept abortion as a response to our society’s problems — an inadequate welfare system, unsatisfactory job training programs, and insufficient financial support for all its citizens.

    “When history looks back to this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family, and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception.

    Sincerely,
    Edward M. Kennedy”

    Now that was a Catholic Democrat. But he grew, as they say, in office. Whatever happened to these guys? I’d like to consider giving them my vote. If they still existed.

    As a Catholic trying to be faithful to all the Church teaches, it is more difficult when a prominent Catholic politician, such as he was with views on abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research oppossed to the Church’s teachings, is given only praise without even a whisper from you or other Catholic bishops in response.

    Please guide us.

    AMDG

    Albert

  2. Comment by Maria Teresa Frias | 2009/08/29 at 23:55:45

    Querido Padre Seán, On the Feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist happy 39th Anniversary of your Priesthood, today August 29, 2009! We pray for you always and ask our Lord to always make you ready to loose your life for love of Him and the feeding of His sheep. May He renews you constantly in His love so you could have His Heart, His merciful Heart, the Heart of the Good Shepherd so you could lead His flock to Him and to His Church, especially to those of us who go astray from His teachings and are His lost sheep hurting His Church. Padre Seán we send you our love and our prayers by uniting ourselves to Christ everyday in every Mass, entrusting ourselves to Him and to His saving Redemption living our faith in the Communion of His Saints. May His Holy Mary, Mother of God prays for us sinners, now at the hour of our death.

  3. Comment by Janet Baker | 2009/08/30 at 17:29:35

    Senator Kennedy a “champion of the poor”?? Your Eminence, what about the poor unborn children whose murders he fomented by his disgraceful stances? He was no champion. Your Eminence, you did poorly by honoring him with a public funeral. Of course we must pray for the repose of his soul, but by no means was his public life worthy of public Catholic acolades.

  4. Comment by Tim from Iowa | 2009/08/31 at 22:52:16

    With all due respect Cardinal O’Malley, I cannot understand why you would preside at Edward Kennedy’s funeral. Worse yet, at a moment where the Church needs clear and unambiguous leaders, you made statements that by all media accounts only praised his life. We are certainly all sinners and pray for God’s Grace now and at the end of our lives, but this man was clearly not in line with Church teachings.

    I agree with the previous poster. A Champion of the Poor? For 35+ years he has been a champion of Planned Parenthood.

  5. Comment by Cilla | 2009/08/31 at 23:51:52

    Ted Kennedy was a wonderful human being. Who of us that dares to call ourselves Catholic has any right to condemn another person. We know not what is in the heart of another. Thank God that on our final day of life it will be God that decides our fate. Your decision to participate in the funeral of Ted was wise. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

  6. Comment by Andrew Rizzo | 2009/09/01 at 08:17:55

    Eminence, I notice in some of the pictures from Cuba you are wearing a white habit. Why is that?

  7. Comment by Mike Mobley | 2009/09/01 at 13:29:55

    I read just a couple days ago an entry in the diary of St. Faustina in which the Lord said something like this to her: A single act of obedience gives Me greater glory than many prayers and mortifications. I thought it was a beautiful entry.
    God bless you.

  8. Comment by corinne | 2009/09/03 at 19:11:45

    Dear Cardinal Sean,
    I, as a lifelong member of this archdiocese of Boston, was so very happy to see you at the funeral of Sen Ted Kennedy. My father grew up in Roxbury, and attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica. You did the right thing by being present at that Mass!
    c roberts

  9. Comment by Zachary Walsh | 2009/10/26 at 21:30:58

    Hello i am a ninth grader from Boston College High School in Boston, my name is Zachary Walsh and i would like to say that Ted Kennedy was a wonderful human being and that we a ll could learn something from him. I would also like to add that Cuba looks so beautiful and fun. I feel sad that the wives could not get visas to see their husbands. Cuba is such a beautiful place and I hope to go there someday. You did a very kind thing going down to Cuba and just being there to help with the Caritas Cubanas church in Cuba.


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