Pope Could Push Sainthood Cause of Father Varela in Cuba

by Cindy Wooden

Father Felix Varela

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The sainthood cause of Cuban-born Father Felix Varela could take a leap forward during Pope Benedict XVI’s stay in Cuba March 26-28.
The Congregation for Saints’ Causes “has done its part” and has recommended that Pope Benedict formally recognize the heroic virtues of Father Varela, a 19th-century writer and philosopher, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.
“It isn’t on the program,” but “if the pope wants to say he’s approving it, he’ll say it,” Father Lombardi told reporters during a briefing on the pope’s trip.
The papal decree that a person heroically lived the Christian virtues is the first official recognition needed in a candidate’s sainthood cause. Before the next step – beatification – a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the candidate’s intercession also is needed.
Father Varela was born in Havana in 1788 and was ordained in the city’s cathedral at the age of 23. He is known as a promoter of human rights, freedom for slaves and independence for Cuba from Spain.
Exiled from Cuba, he eventually immigrated to the United States. He served for a time as vicar general of the Archdiocese of New York, living for a short time in Brooklyn.  However, troubled by asthma, he spent his last years in St. Augustine, Fla., and died there in 1853.
Father Varela has been credited with promoting human rights, freedom for slaves and independence for Cuba from Spain. He lived in St. Augustine during a time of personal exile from Cuba and his remains are now housed at the University of Havana.
His remains were transferred to Cuba in 1911.