Havana (Agenzia Fides) - “A mantel of sorrow and pain has covered our Archdiocese of Havana since the morning of Monday, July 12, when we learned of the terrible assassination of Fr. Mariano Arroyo. The details of the torture that Fr. Mariano was subject to, the cruelty unleashed by his killers in carrying out this criminal act, brought those of us who knew and loved this exemplary priest shock, sadness, upset, and the will to find answers in the midst of this terrible injustice.” With these words, Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino, Archbishop of Havana, opened his homily at the funeral Mass said for Father Mariano Arroyo Merino, SMI, celebrated in the Cathedral, on July 17, 2009.
According to the Archdiocese of Havana, nearly 2,000 people, including priests, religious, and laity of Havana, attended the Mass presided by the Archbishop. Also present were Spanish diplomats and a representative from the Office of Religious Affairs of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party.
Cardinal Ortega denied any religious or even anti-Spanish significance that, with political insinuations, have been implied by several media sources in reporting on Fr. Arroyo's murder. He affirmed that “we cannot judge the sentiments of the a people, judging from the behavior of some delinquents, common criminals.” On the contrary, the sentiments that we have observed in these days among Cuban priests and missionaries in many countries that dedicate their lives to the Lord in evangelizing Cuba, who are filled with “appreciation, gratitude, affection, and never feel that anyone is a foreigner.”
Cardinal Ortega later recalled how “after several years in the Parish, where he had carried out a great pastoral work, I asked Fr. Mariano to go to Regla to take care of this Shrine to Our Lady,” and he accepted, but saying that “it would be for a short time, as he planned to retire in Spain after so many years on the missions in Cuba and beforehand, in Chile; to not be so old by the time he reached his homeland.” And yet, “his great affection and attachment to Cuba, to our people and our Church, led him to later say to me: “Don't worry about what I said about my time in Cuba, I plan on spending the rest of my life here.” In fact, “his plan tragically came to pass.” The Cardinal continued, saying, “Father Mariano also leaves us with the love, respect, admiration, and gratitude of a people and a Church that will always remember him.”
The Pastor of the Church in Havana reminded all the faithful that they should look upon these events with faith, which is the only response to the question: “What explanation is there for the fact that a man who dedicates his life to loving his neighbor for the glory of God is repaid with a death of this kind?” “Suffering and death itself do not present the apparently logical and simple answer we seek: the man who suffers pays for the evil he has done and the man without sufferings receives the recompense of his good life,” the Cardinal explained. Instead, suffering “becomes luminous and redeeming, by virtue of Christ's surrender of His life on the Cross.” Thus, all suffering stands before us in its tragic reality that causes pain, but it also takes on meaning and is no longer absurd in light of its one meaning which is given by Christ's Cross.”
He concluded his homily by manifesting his desire that “Father Mariano's falling into the earth may bear abundant spiritual fruit which is so needed by our country, so that violence may not increase among us, for an end to the primitive instincts that taint our society, so that the Cuban people may truly conserve these values of friendship, amiability, and openness that Fr. Mariano so valued and held in high esteem.”
The priest's body was later transferred to Spain, to his hometown of Cabezon de la Sal (Santander). During the homily at his funeral, celebrated in St. Martin Parish Church, Bishop Jimenez Zamora of Santander mentioned that Fr. Mariano Arroyo was a “good” missionary priest who was always “dedicated to the service of the Gospel and the cause of the poor, weak, and needy.” He highlighted that “he has left a mark of goodness and Gospel in all those who knew him.”
According to a statement from the Archdiocese of Havana, the Cuban authorities have captured the alleged assassin of the Spanish priest, Fr. Arroyo. “In addition to several other related proofs, the police authorities also have the confession of the mentioned suspect.” They also clarify that the investigation “has not yet concluded.” Moreover, the authorities also confirmed that they will continue the investigation on the other Spanish priest murdered this past February in Havana, Eduardo de la Fuente, and in this case, “at least one suspect has confessed his guilt.” (RG) (Agenzia Fides 21/7/2009)