Cardinal Jaime and a designer

by: Iván Batista

Cardenal Jaime Ortega en la iglesia de Capdevila que se inauguraba por esos días

The first time I saw Cardinal Jaime personally was in December 2012 when the Christmas lunch that the Archbishopric of Havana makes to his workers; I was just starting out as a designer for The New Word magazine. I knew of his culture, his depth of thought, nobility, fortitude and firmness, having him so close with that family projection was overwhelming to me.
From then on, in every chance encounter I had with him in the archbishopric’s majestic house, he greeted me with an effusive word: “Designer!”

Postal de la Navidad del año 2013 entregado por el Cardenal Jaime Ortega
Postal de Navidad del año 2013 entregada por el Cardenal Jaime Ortega

It wasn’t long before he called me to make the Christmas postcard he would send in 2013; I was surprised by his accuracy in asking me what he wanted, while wondering my professional opinion on his imaginary sketch. His idea carried a photo montage and he said, “Designer, come with a good camera so that the image has excellent resolution, that the photo montage is proportional to the environment and bring me at least two variants.” That left me stunned: a cardinal precising me with technical language the requirements of a good photo and asking me, in a creative exercise, for variants to choose from. When he had the final postcard in his hands, he thoroughly reviewed the typography, colors, cardboard, until he was satisfied with the result.
On a second occasion he requested my services to accompany him to a visit to the church of Capdevila that opened during those days. On the near-an-hour round trip, we discussed the importance of my activity in church communication actions, knew the existence of the Higher Institute of Design, and told me how vital it was to visually update the propaganda that the Archdiocese offered its faithful in all media. We arrived in Capdevila and reviewed with me each and every one of the aesthetic details that accompanied the construction work, gave guidance of the style that the furniture, the luminaires and other elements should carry, at the same time that he consulted me as a specialist if his assessments were correct. He strongly criticized lamps that had nothing to do with the simplicity of the temple and described them as carnival lampposts. My impression was that of a man of extraordinary sensitivity, who defended the elegant and the beautiful based on solid criteria and not from vague foundationless appraises. He was, as a friend of mine says, a man of lineage.
Perhaps in his departure, many will speak of his vocation of service, of his exceptionality as a priest, of his intellectual and political caliber, of his Magisterium as the guide of a Church that had to face many times the fiercest onslities. I can only speak of my limited personal and professional contact, with a figure of extraordinary dimension who appreciated design as an effective instrument of creation and communicative strength.
I will keep with particular affection the book on the rapprochement between Cuba and the United States containing his gentle and affectionate text with which he dedicated it to me. I will keep forever in my memory his jovial expression when we crossed somewhere: “Designer! What project are you in?”
A few days ago talking on the street with someone very close to him, I asked him to give him a hug with his heart from the designer, that’s all. That person assured me yes, that I would give him that hug of mine…
Rest in peace, Father Jaime. Ω

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