|For Release :
September 8, 2008
(Note to Editors: Bishop Manuel Cruz was ordained on the day the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In addition, this day is celebrated in Cuba as the feast of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre – Our Lady of Charity of Cobre. For your information, a brief summary of these celebrations follows:)
The Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Church has celebrated Mary's birth since at least the sixth century. A September birth was chosen because the Eastern Church begins its Church year with September. The September 8 date helped determine the date for the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8 (nine months earlier).
St. Augustine connects Mary's birth with Jesus' saving work. He tells the earth to rejoice and shine forth in the light of her birth. "She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley. Through her birth the nature inherited from our first parents is changed." The opening prayer at Mass on this day speaks of the birth of Mary's Son as the dawn of our salvation and asks for an increase of peace.
Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre
Around the year 1611, two native Indians and a slave went out to sea to look for salt needed to preserve meat for a slaughterhouse in the town of El Cobre. Following a storm that nearly demolished their small boat, they saw in the distance a white bundle floating on the waves and approaching them. The bundle turned out to be a statue of the Virgin Mary holding the Christ Child on her right arm and a gold cross in her left hand. The statue was attached to a plank inscribed: "Yo soy la Virgen de la Caridad (I am the Virgin of Charity)." Neither the statue nor the clothing was wet.
Our Lady of Charity was declared the patroness of Cuba by Pope Benedict XV in 1916, and solemnly crowned in the Eucharistic Congress held in Santiago de Cuba in 1936. Pope John Paul II crowned the image a second time as queen and patron saint of Cuba.