… I should introduce to you the nation that lives here and lives in the diaspora; Cubans suffer, live and hope here and also suffer, live, and hope out there. We are a single people that, navigating the seas on logs, continues to look for unity…
Mons. ++ Pedro Claro Meurice Estíu 24/1/98 (Words of welcome to His Holiness Pope John Paul II)
In my life there have been three great moments that I consider historical: kissing the hands and personally meeting three people that live in the presence of God today. Two of them already decorate the Altar.
The first was Mother Teresa of Calcutta, at the consecration of the Sanctuary of Nuestra Señora de Regla; she has been beatified by the Church.
The second was His Holiness Pope John Paul II, at the mass in Santa Clara on 22 January 1998, when Mons. +Fernando Prego (blessed memory) asked him to bless an image of Saint Joseph, after which all the monks, nuns, priests, seminarians, and bishops present kissed the episcopal ring, he gave his apostolic blessing to each of us and presented us with a blessed rosary.
The third was Mons. ++Meurice Estíu (Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba). Accompanied by another saint, Mons. Modesto Peña Paz, I served him as master of ceremonies during mass. He had already been asked to end mass with the Salve in Latin to the Patron of Cuba and he generously accepted. When we finished service and arrived to the sacristy, we saluted each other. He thanked me for serving at the altar; he congratulated me and we hugged. I cried with emotion because I knew I was in the presence of a holy man who did not know fear. During my prison time I remembered a phrase that whispered in my ear while he hugged me and patted my back: Forward, forward!
For your example of life, your bravery to publicly claim and report the needs of your people and for that wonderful opportunity that I will never forget, in which I assisted you at God’s altar. Thank you Mons. Meurice.
Today, 21 July, I cannot explain what I feel in this moment. It is a mix of pain at his parting, intertwined with happiness for the freedom that he already experimented with; but I make my pleas before the altar of God for his soul’s eternal rest, while I hope that the Church will surprise me by lifting him to the glory of the Altar.
Thank you for your example of life
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share the Eucharist together with you
Thank you for the eloquence of your word and your example of humility
Rest in peace
Your faithful servant, Fr. Ricardo Santiago Medina Salabarria+
Translated by: M. Ouellette
July 21 2011