Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez, O.F.M., of San Juan, Puerto Rico, offered a Solemn Mass for the People of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of recent earthquakes that greatly impacted the island.
The Mass of solidarity was offered Feb. 2 at St. Raymond Church in the Bronx.
“I have come here today as a deep sign of Christian and episcopal solidarity between the Catholic Church in Puerto Rico and the Catholic Church in New York,” said Archbishop Gonzalez in his homily.
“I am here to thank your archdiocese for your generosity toward Puerto Rico— and to pray for your intentions. I am also here to pray with you for the people of Puerto Rico.”
The archbishop somberly added that the recent earthquakes “have left four municipalities of Puerto Rico with great devastation, and thousands of people living in tents, and in modular and temporary housing because they lost everything…It is heartbreaking; it is profound suffering, crumbled housing and lives—and even parish churches, and the churches of other Christian denominations.”
“We pray to the God of hope and to the God of love. The love becomes charity, mercy and solidarity…In the midst of all this sorrow, suffering, desperation and uncertainty, Puerto Ricans are determined to overcome these tragedies.”
The archbishop expressed gratitude for the $80,000 in aid the Archdiocese of New York has donated after the earthquakes, as well as assistance the archdiocese and its parishes gave in response to the hurricanes that devastated Puerto Rico in 2017.
Archbishop Gonzalez, who has served as archbishop of San Juan since 1999, noted that Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, one of the concelebrants, returned from Puerto Rico the previous day after visiting communities damaged by the earthquakes. Msgr. Sullivan is the executive director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities.
The afternoon Mass, attended by 150 people, was offered in Spanish and some English.
Archbishop Gonzalez, 69, who is of Puerto Rican descent, is a native of Elizabeth, N.J. In the 1980s, Archbishop Gonzalez served as pastor of Holy Cross and parochial vicar of St. Pius V, both in the Bronx.
After the Mass, Archbishop Gonzalez told Catholic New York that he visited New York and celebrated the Mass at St. Raymond “to show my gratitude, and to pray with all of you.”
“People here have expressed their gratitude and affection, and I hope that they have felt my affection and my gratitude,” the archbishop said.
Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Walsh, who served as a concelebrant, read a letter from Cardinal Dolan at the Mass in which the cardinal expressed the archdiocese’s solidarity with Puerto Ricans on the island and in New York. Noting the recent earthquakes, the letter also mentioned the two hurricanes in 2017.
“Although the island of Puerto Rico has experienced monumental devastation, the Church and its people remain resilient…The people of New York have long had a special bond with the people of Puerto Rico,” Cardinal Dolan wrote.
Father Eric Cruz, Bronx regional director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities, served as a concelebrant. In closing remarks, he expressed gratitude to Father James Cruz, pastor of St. Raymond, for offering his parish church for the Mass, and Archbishop Gonzalez for offering the special liturgy of solidarity.
“And we thank the Lord for the archbishop,” said Father Cruz to applause.
Both Father Eric Cruz and Father James Cruz are of Puerto Rico ancestry and they each were concelebrants, as was Father Lorenzo Ato, archdiocesan director of communications for Hispanic Ministry.
Francisco Lorenzo, a parishioner of St. Raymond and a native Puerto Rican, told CNY after the Mass that he was happy about the archbishop’s visit and liturgical celebration. “Even though we’re not there in Puerto Rico, we are there in mind and spirit, and we feel their suffering,” he said.