Eminent Cardinal Jaime Ortega, His Excellency Monsignors, friends all:
Today we are invited here by the happy opportunity to present Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino, our dear Cardinal Jaime, of the distinction “Monsignor Carlos Manuel de Céspedes” given to him by the Committee on Culture of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba. Award and award-winning contribute to this simple ceremony today is far from one of those so-called acts of recognition that our media presents with exhausting repetition. The prize, because although it is a modest honorary sign, has the special brilliance that transmits to it the dear and illustrious name of the remembered priest, patriotic lineage and deep love for Cuba, Monsignor Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. The winner, because Cardinal Jaime Ortega, by force of surrendering unreservedly to his service as pastor, has left a luminous and inspiring mark, like few others, in our history as a Church and as a country.
Thanks to his early artistic training, the Cardinal saw clearly, from his early apostolic endeavors in Catholic Action and then in his time as parish priest in his native Matanzas, the power of art – music, poetry, theatre – as food of the spirit and path to God. Whether it was the parish choir or a theatrical group of young people, the path of Beauty – the much appreciated via pulchritudinis – was presented as a valuable resource of human improvement and spiritual growth, a path to the definitive encounter with Good and Truth.
Throughout his ministry, the Cardinal has continually expressed this care of the details born of his deep appreciation of beauty, whether in the architectural aspects of the numerous restorations of temples that he has managed to carry out in the Archdiocese, among which is especially that of that icon of the city that is the majestic Cathedral of Havana , including his images, paintings and frescoes, or in his meticulous attention to the liturgy. In this aspect, music has been a preferred place, both in the selection of songs and in the quality of instrumental and choral performances.
I know how close to his heart has been the project of the Padre Félix Varela Cultural Center, where we are, a project that he conceived and made a reality, in his efforts to continue the work of formation of the Cuban laity undertaken by Father Varela at the Seminary School of San Carlos. It must be heard to describe how vividly the presence among these venerable walls of the spirit of Father Varela is felt, which encourages us to continue his exemplary formative work.
How much the Cardinal did, first of all, for the construction of the new headquarters of the Seminary, which made it possible for it, its historic headquarters, to go to the Cultural Center! How much has he done next to obtain support for the restoration of the building; for the approval, structuring and operation of the Institute of Ecclesiastical Studies Father Felix Varela, who has already turned six years old; for the construction of the Center’s library and the obtaining of valuable funds for it, including the donation of your personal library; for the establishment and operation of the Chair of Sacred Music, with the already essential Weeks of Sacred Music in which students from all the music schools of Havana participate, and their participation in joint endeavors with other entities of culture, such as the restoration of the great organs of the churches of Havana, among other projects.
His work for the Church-culture dialogue has extended to scientific disciplines, both to the exact and natural sciences – let us remember, among other memorable events, that tribute of Cuban meteorologists to Fr. Benito Viñes and the Observatory of the College of Bethlehem – and of Bioethics, with the creation of the John Paul II Bioethics Center, which has been carved , through the path that its Director describes as capillary, a widely recognized leadership position in that field in the country.
The Cardinal has always been clear that this is the case, capillaryly, that the Church can “achieve and transform with the power of the Gospel the criteria of judgment, the determining values, the points of interest, the lines of thought, the inspiring sources and the models of life of humanity, which are in contrast to the word of God and to the plan of salvation. … what matters is to evangelize… vitally, in depth and to the very roots, culture and cultures of man” (St Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 19-20).
For all this, the Cardinal enjoys every concert and recital that we celebrate, every exhibition of plastic arts that we present, every issue of our magazines that is published, every debate that we organize on some topical topic, every film we exhibit… It is an enjoyment born above all of its conviction that we are serving Cuban society, making the Church present in the life of society, fostering that intense exchange with which the Center, while acting in society, is perfected and updates with what it receives from it, in a process of continually ascending mutual enrichment.
He could not fail to mention his constant work, not always well received by all, for the essential reconciliation between Cubans. He has patiently suffered rejections, for “this is the giving of life for the sheep. because there is no resurrection without a cross, and I have accepted that I have to bear that, and we have to bear to carry out that reconciliation between Cubans.” The Cardinal has never given in or will give in to that endeavor.
Love for Christ and his Church, love of the Fatherland, spirit of dialogue, are distinctive notes of the life and ministry of our Cardinal. With them it inspires us and encourages us to continue.
Thanks a lot.