Death is step and journey in the essence of life. Archbishop Pedro Meurice Estiu course, retired archbishop of Santiago de Cuba has ended his fruitful and suffering journey for the time he lived. Cuba has lost one of its greatest pastors of all time and has gained one of the holy intercessors who has known its deep reality.
Meurice, undoubtedly, has a place alongside bishops such as that other Pedro, Morell de Santacruz, or with Espada, the most Cuban of Spanish bishops as Martí called him, or his own friend and father, Monsignor Enrique Perez Serantes, whose personal secretary he was.
I am honored to have been his disciple and friend. I met him when I was a young man of barely 25 and he was the archbishop president of the National Commission for the Laity. He was for me a paradigm, a stimulus and a counselor. Hard as a rock, paternal like a grandfather, tender as a child.
But mostly I remember the two major events of the Church in Cuba in the last half century: the Cuban National Ecclesial Meeting (ENEC, 1986) and in the unforgettable visit of John Paul II to Cuba in 1998. In the first event I can not forget his passionate devotion to the Father of Cuban culture, Felix Varela, reading the decree to begin his canonization still pending and slowed down.
The Pope’s visit I could not remember without hearing, in the hollow of the Cuban soul, that clear and courageous presentation of his people before the blessed image of the Virgin of Charity and the Supreme Pastor of his Church. Never were the reality, the hope, the transparency closer to the heart of the people and their Queen and Mother.
Cuba remains as described by Archbishop Meurice. Nobody has narrated a diagnosis so endearing, respectful and truthful of their homeland. This text should be published and studied again. I witnessed with much love and how much did this presentation cost, as valid and urgent now, 13 years later.
Time soothes and balances, eases and melts, in the historical memory of peoples life, the service and the example of its protagonists, will one day make the biography I tried to begin one day starting with over a hundred questions, of course incomplete and put aside the humble sanluiseño. I know other good Cubans tried to save his image and did so with unsurpassed audiovisual work on his predecessor.
As that time comes, I leave my simple testimony to his glorious and no longer breathless remains, forever serene, these three words and an adjective with the haste of the moment that forced me to tax my homage:
Meurice has been and is: a Cuban, a pastor and a faithful friend.
Cuban: Above all a man of a single piece and a consistent and contagious ethic, true to his country, its history, the soul of the nation and to San Luis and Santiago of his hopes and tribulations. All he did was to be faithful to that love without cracking and without duplicity. Cuba should honor him as one of its finest sons. In time it will.
Pastor: faithful to Christ, his only and beloved Lord. The Gospel and its blessings, which were his compass and his way. Faithful to the Church that he served non-stop, without measure, saying sometimes yes and sometimes no, according to his conscience dictated in full communion with his faith and his brothers. The Church in Cuba should honor and revere him as one of its most faithful pastors and saints. In time it will.
Friend: faithful to the nearby and distant in geography, but always faithful to friendship lucid, critical and transparent. I learned from him that one may be, at the same time, oneself and a friend of those who think or believe like one. I learned also from Meurice, that one may be Cuban, pastor and friend without conflict of duties and subdivisions. Time will make that friendship sown, cultivated, preserved and shared, the best altar to the Patriarch Archbishop Primate of Cuba.
How he succeeded, like P. Varela, to unite in one heart the love of Cuba, of Christ and his church,admired and reverent at the altar of the Fatherland of the Church, the living sacrifice that was Pedro Claro Meurice Estiu, who true to his two names, was able to combine the strength of the stone and the clarity of light in the same breathless tenderness of his invincible hope.
Archbishop Meurice: Pray for Cuba, for its Church and for each one of us! Amen.
By Dagoberto Valdés