Cardinal’s Visit Draws Praise From Cuban-born New Yorkers


Cardinal Dolan’s recent visit to Cuba was a welcome pastoral gesture for Cuban Americans in the New York area who also hope for social and political improvements in their beloved island nation.

“This is good for the Church; it is good for the faith,” Cecilia Soler, 71, a lead organizer with the archdiocesan Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre Committee, said in her native Spanish in a Feb. 19 phone interview with Catholic New York. “For the religion, for the Catholic Church, this was a very good journey – to show support for the Catholic leaders and people in Cuba, to demonstrate unity.”

Mrs. Soler left Cuba at age 18. She is a married mother of two and grandmother of three. Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre is the patroness of Cuba. Mrs. Soler attends Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where the feast day of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre is celebrated at an annual Mass each September. Mrs. Soler noted the cardinal’s visit and celebrations of Mass demonstrated true spiritual and pastoral encouragement for Catholics in Cuba.

She expressed gratitude based on her strong Catholic faith, both to the Archdiocese of New York and for Cardinal Dolan’s visit to Cuba this month.

On a somber note, Mrs. Soler said that unfortunately nothing can be done politically or socially by the cardinal, “not even the pope was able to do anything; with all his best intentions, all has remained the same in Cuba, because of the government, because of Communism. They (Cuban government) deceive everyone. They present one face and then they do whatever they want—it’s been 60 years now.”

She added, “We Cubans have suffered very much. I don’t think there is a solution. But for the Cuban Catholics this 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. It makes me very happy.”

Lorena Garces, 56, is a parishioner of St. Elizabeth parish in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. She emigrated from Cuba at age 15. Mrs. Garces called Cardinal Dolan’s visit “a sign of hope.”

“It makes me very content,” she said.

She acknowledged the uphill struggle over the decades for social and political betterment in Cuba, but added that nevertheless “I pray to God that soon there will be positive change there. I always have hope.”

Mrs. Garces, a married mother of two, noted she was thankful for Cardinal Dolan’s significant pastoral gesture in making the trip, saying, “I feel this visit was something very important.”

Cardinal Dolan’s six-day visit was highlighted by Mass celebrations and pastoral community visits. His small entourage included Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros of the Diocese of Brooklyn, who is Cuban-born.

The first Mass was at the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity in El Cobre. During the homily, Bishop Cisneros translated the cardinal’s words to Spanish, which in part were: “We only arrived yesterday in Cuba and this is our first stop—on purpose—because we are one family in the Church…When we came to Cuba we wanted to come to the house of our Mother, Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, and we’re grateful to God we are here.”