Jose Siro Gonzalez Bacallao, a Cuban Bishop ‘Close to His People’ Dies

José Siro González Bacallao, died this Monday in Pinar del Río at the age of 90. (Digital Religion)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, July 19, 2021 — José Siro González Bacallao, bishop emeritus of Pinar del Río, died in that province at the age of 90.

Among his works are the founding and sponsorship of the magazine Vitral, led by Dagoberto Valdés, a fact omitted from the communique issued by the diocese of Pinar del Río as an obituary.

“He was a shepherd very close to his people, attentive to the needs of his people,” Valdés told 14ymedio by telephone. “He was to us, in Pinar del Río, what Bishop Espada was in 19th century Cuba.”

The official text indicates that the body will be transferred to the Cathedral of Pinar del Río for the funeral and will be buried in the Pantheon of the Bishops of the Alameda Catholic Cemetery, in Pinar del Río. “The life of this pastor has been characterized by dedication and perseverance despite the ordeal he had to face,” he adds.

González Bacallao, who officiated for 67 years, resigned as bishop in 2006 and retired to Mantua, at the western end of the island.

Born in the municipality of Candelaria, now the province of Artemisa, on December 9, 1930, from a young age he expressed his desire to be a friar, and at the age of 12 he enrolled in the San Carlos y San Ambrosio Seminary to study as a diocesan priest. He was ordained a priest on February 28, 1945, and celebrated his first Mass in his hometown on March 7 of that year.

Later he became the secretary to Monsignor Evelio Díaz and coadjutor of the cathedral (1954-1957) and at the end of that work he was appointed pastor of San Juan y Martínez, a community where he served for 22 years.

González Bacallao had to live through the hardest period for the Catholic Church in Cuba, with the triumph of the Revolution, when worship was prohibited.

In 1966, González Bacallao transferred his pastoral work to the countryside and for almost seven years he dedicated himself to planting tobacco, rice, beans and other produce on the farm of Pancho Ravelo, a layman from the community of San Juan y Martínez whom he considered his great friend. Before being named bishop of Pinar del Río, in 1982, he was vicar of the diocese and pastor of the cathedral.

He was one of the prelates who promoted the process of Cuban Ecclesial Reflection that prepared the Church for the Cuban National Encounter (Enec), in 1986.

The official note highlights as one of the “most significant moments of his period as pastor” the visit of Pope John Paul II to Cuba, when the Pope agreed to his request to fly over Pinar del Rio, blessing the diocese of his province as he arrived on the island on January 21, 1998.

“His pastoral work is reflected in the creation of the Father Félix Varela Pre-Seminary, in San Juan y Martínez, to guide young people who choose to follow Christ in a radical way through the priesthood,” it points out.

Translated by Tomás A.


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