AMERICA/CUBA - "The Church is where the Christian is and the Lord is there": Jubilee Year for the fifth centenary of the first diocese on Cuban soil

Thursday, 9 November 2023

Santiago de Cuba (Agenzia Fides) - Last October 22 marked a historical milestone for the Cuban population with the opening of the Jubilee Year for the 500th anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Santiago de Cuba, the first diocese on Cuban soil.

"Pope Francis, in response to our request, has proclaimed the period between October 21, 2023 and October 22, 2024 as a Jubilee Year. Furthermore, the Plenary Indulgence will be granted to all those who make a pilgrimage this year to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption and pass through the Holy Door", Dionisio García Ibáñez, Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba said in a note sent to Fides

The Archbishop, expressing his gratitude and emotion, added: "Let us begin this year of Grace, so that it may be a year of life, of purification and conversion. A period to reconnect with our roots and meet God, who is the center of our existence. It will be a time of thanks, of joy in the midst of increasing difficulties. This Jubilee Year gives us the opportunity to return to God, to seek Him and find Him if we have forgotten Him; a favorable time to look for him and try to find him if we do not know him, sure that we will not be disappointed".

During the opening Mass of the Jubilee Year, Bishop Dionisio expressed his gratitude to the Lord for his continued presence and to the entire community and to the brothers of other Christian communities who have participated.

"Thank you Lord, for being present in this land and among this people so diverse but united by the desire for brotherhood, peace and justice".

The bishop emphasized the importance of the presence of brothers from other Christian communities: "I wanted them to celebrate with us, because they also deeply value the Word of God as a guide for their lives. For them it is a reason for joy that the message has been preached in this land for 500 years. Both Catholics and members of other churches and Christian groups, who share the belief in Jesus Christ as our only Savior, celebrate together these 500 years of presence and dissemination of his message. A message that has always been and will continue to be synonymous with humanization, mercy and salvation".

The celebration commemorates a historical event that dates back to the year 1517, when it was decided to found a diocese in Cuba. Baracoa, the largest city of the time, was chosen. The Belgian priest Juan Witte was appointed bishop, but he could not take office due to multiple difficulties. He himself requested that the seat of the diocese be moved, and when all the bureaucratic paperwork was completed, the diocese was erected on October 22, 1523 with the name Diocese of Santiago de Cuba, an event that marked a meeting between cultures and a significant step in the religious history of the region. "Today we commemorate not only the 500 years of the systematic presence of the Word of God here on this earth and its roots in the Christian community, but also the fifth centenary since the Villa de Santiago was elevated to the category of city. It is a religious, historical event and an encounter between cultures that has experienced challenges, virtues and sins throughout the centuries, both in the past and today. What is truly significant is that in this place, five hundred years ago, the preaching of Christ, the Lord of life and history, began".

The Archbishop concluded with a message of hope and unity: “Many of us will be able to say: I was present at the 500th anniversary of the creation of the diocese. Here, in this very place, we preach the Word of God and, thank God, not only us, but also many brothers and sisters from many other places, with and without a temple, because we know that the Church is where the Christian is, and the Lord is there". (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 9/11/2023)