ACN News, Wednesday, 13th September 2017 – CUBA
Cuba: The chapel fell, but not the Church
By Maria Lozano
A leading Catholic bishop in Cuba has described the damage in the parts of his diocese devastated by Hurricane Irma.
Archbishop Wilfredo Pino Estevez of Camagüey told the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) how he visited the town of Esmeralda in the eastern province of Camaguey, the day after it was struck by the storm. Hurricane Irma hit Cuba on 8th-9th September. According to local emergency services it battered Esmeralda for a full nine hours, with winds in excess of 250 km per hour. Over 7,000 people had to be evacuated.
Archbishop Estevez said he saw “great destruction, not only in Esmeralda itself, but also in the area around the sugar refinery in Jaronú in the nearby town of Brasil, where the recently restored church was damaged”. He added: “When we arrived in Esmeralda, we celebrated Mass there with the handful of people who were able to attend. There too we saw many damaged homes, partially or totally demolished, roofless, etc. Some of the people were still visibly scared. ‘What a long night that was!” was the most common thing I heard from the people I talked to.
In the small town of Jiquí the chapel was destroyed. Archbishop Wilfredo told ACN “it was painful to see our church totally razed to the ground, with the benches smashed and the holy pictures ruined”. While he was in Jiquí, despite a fierce downpour, he met with Ismaela and Alberto, a local married couple. He was deeply impressed by the first words Ismaela said to him: “Archbishop, the chapel may have collapsed, but not the Church.”
(The destroyed chapel in Jaquí, Cuba © Aid to the Church in Need)
Archbishop Estevez described the work being done by the Church in the various different towns and parishes affected. He said that when he asked his priests and religious if they were alright, the response of most of them was unanimous: “We are well, but we were going out with some food and a few other things, practical items, in order to help anyone who may be in need.”
In conclusion, Archbishop Estevez recalled that on Friday 8th September, the feast of the nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the patroness of Cuba, “we were unable to hold the usual processions of Our Lady of Charity, but now, as on other occasions, Our Good Lord is inviting us to make ‘processions of love’ like the ones I’ve just been telling you about.”
Ulrich Kny, ACN’s project director for projects in Cuba, said that the priorities for aid will probably be the rebuilding of the ruined churches in Jaronú and Jiquí. He added that if the local bishops requested help, ACN would provide aid “so that the Church can act as an instrument of God’s mercy and help remedy some of the damage caused by the hurricane, which also did not spare other dioceses, such as Ciego de Ávila, Santa Clara, Matanzas and Havana”.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 172 languages and 50 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
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For more information or to make a donation to help the work of Aid to the Church in Need, please contact the Australian office of ACN on (02) 9679-1929. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Aid to the Church in Need PO Box 7246 Baulkham Hills NSW 2153.
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