By H. Sergio Mora
ROME, MARCH 14, 2012 (Zenit.org).- A Cuban priest and patriot has been recognized as fulfilling the conditions for receiving the title “venerable” and there’s a possibility Benedict XVI will bestow the honor while he visit Cuba from March 26 to 29.
Father Felix Varela was recognized for heroic virtue earlier this month by a commission of cardinals and bishops of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes.
The general postulator of Father Varela’s cause, La Salle Brother Rodolfo Meoli, was clearly pleased with the positive conclusion of the canonical process.
“With the approval of the Commission of Cardinals and Bishops, and after the Pope’s consent, the Congregation for Saints’ Causes will issue the Decree super virtutibus, on the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Felix Varela, which will promote him to Venerable.”
“The Commission of Cardinals and Bishops pronounced itself after the decision of the Theological Commission, expressed on December 13 of last year, which recognized in Father Varela the practice of virtues to a heroic degree,” continued Brother Meoli.
And he explained that “the same day in which the Pope authorizes Cardinal Amato to sign the Decree, the news will be made known to the public by L’Osservatore Romano, probably together with other causes brought to the Holy Father.” This could happen in concomitance with Benedict XVI’s pastoral visit to Cuba.
Father Varela is considered one of the fathers of the Cuban nation. Born in Havana in 1788, he was ordained a priest at age 23. At 24 he was appointed professor of philosophy, physics and ethics in the capital’s seminary. Here he established the country’s first laboratory of physics and chemistry.
In the history of Cuban culture Father Varela occupies a pre-eminent place for his contribution to the development of the national culture and for his patriotism and his virtue. He was a professor, educator and model of piety for his disciples. In 1821, at 33, he was sent as a representative of Cuba to the Courts of Madrid.
His three initiatives in Spain were: a government for the overseas provinces, independence and the abolition of slavery.
In Madrid he organized a group with representatives of some other overseas provinces, to improve the defense of common rights.
His proposals were not approved and, with the re-establishment of monarchical absolutism, he left Spain in 1823. Unable to return to Cuba, he went, in self-imposed exile, to New York, where he continued his battle.
He built churches and schools, and evangelized the poor and immigrants, helping in their integration. He died in the United States in February of 1853. His body rests in the Great Hall of the University of Havana.
In 1981 the Cuban government created the Felix Varela Order, the country’s highest decoration.