Cuba: new seminary opened

Cuba's first new seminary in 50 years was opened in Havana today (4 November). The seminary, which is in fact a complex of buildings, is situated roughly 15 km (10 miles) outside the capital Havana and has space for 100 seminarians. It is open to young men from all over Cuba.

In a message, Pope Benedict said he hoped the new institution would be "at one and the same time, a sign and a stimulus for a renewed commitment to strive for the careful human, spiritual and academic preparation of the those who, in that institution, ready themselves for the priestly ministry".

He invited the seminarians "increasingly to identify themselves with the sentiments of Christ the Good Shepherd, through assiduous prayer, serious dedication to study, humbly listening to the divine word, dignified celebration of the Sacraments, and courageous witness of His love as authentic disciples and missionaries of the Gospel of salvation".

The Holy Father said he "entrusts the entire community of this educational institution to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary who, with the title of Our Lady of Charity, is fervently invoked by the beloved nation of Cuba".

The Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, expressed his thanks for the help and solidarity of other Catholics, without which the building could not have been completed. A number of different bodies, including the US Bishops' conference and the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), financially supported the project.

The seminary was built within the space of four years and is named after St Ambrose and St Charles Borromeo. Both men were bishops of Milan who, in the fourth and 16th centuries respectively, worked for the renewal of the Church. A delegation from the US Bishops' conference was present at the opening ceremony, November, the feast of St Charles Borromeo.

The foundation stone for the new seminary was  laid during the visit of Pope John Paul II to Cuba in 1998. However, since then the Cuban authorities had held up the building work for years. Only very recently did they at last allow the Church a little more room for manoeuvre. The Archdiocese of Havana is planning to convert the old seminary into a cultural centre, which will be named after the Cuban-born Catholic priest and social reformer, Felix Varela.

Source: VIS/ACN

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