Pope Sends Cuban Archbishop an Anniversary Greeting

Highlights Cardinal Ortega's Pastoral Commitment

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HAVANA, JAN. 22, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II highlighted the commitment of Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino to "the proclamation of the salvific truth" as the Cuban marked his 25 years as a bishop.



Cardinal Ortega, 67, was ordained a bishop for the Diocese of Pinar del Rio in 1979. He was appointed archbishop of Havana in 1981. Last Saturday he marked his episcopal anniversary with a Mass of thanksgiving in the cathedral here.

Monsignor Nicolas Thevenin, secretary of Havana's apostolic nunciature, read the Pope's congratulatory message to the cardinal at the end of the Mass, archdiocesan sources told ZENIT.

Cardinal Ortega was accompanied by almost all the country's bishops, as well as priests of Havana, his native Matanzas, and Pinar del Rio, as well as lay people and representatives of the diplomatic corps accredited in Cuba.

"We are pleased, on this happy occasion, to highlight your pastoral effort and your commitment in the proclamation of the salvific truth during your diligent governance of the Diocese of Pinar del Rio and in the continual and lasting direction of the metropolitan Church of San Cristobal of Havana," the papal message said.

The Holy Father also referred to the cardinal's "daily solicitude" in the "promotion of priestly vocations, the support of consecrated life, the defense of the Catholic faith" and the "spiritual progress of the faithful."

"In no way can we fail to mention the prudence and constancy of spirit you have shown, even in difficult times for the Church, in the solicitous defense and promotion of social justice and of the religious freedom of the human person," the Pope added.

"You have never lost the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel diligently and correctly to people of good will and to clarify the doctrine of the Church, given the many questions of our age," he concluded.

In his homily, the Havana archbishop emphasized that "the Church is missionary" and that she "cannot act by imposition."

He also appealed for the building of the "civilization of love" and called on the whole world to "take a step beyond all social and political structures" to attain "peace in love."

Cardinal Ortega, who is president of the Cuban bishops' conference, will celebrate the 40th anniversary of his priesthood on Aug. 2. He will mark his 10th anniversary as a cardinal, on Nov. 26.