Archbishop of Havana
Last night you communicated the sad news of the death of Bishop Alfredo Víctor Petit Vergel, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Havana. Only twenty days ago, we also lost the physical presence of Mons. José Siro González Bacallao, Bishop Emeritus of Pinar del Río. In other words, for almost all of us, Cuban bishops, they have been two farewells lived at a distance, limited to being able to travel to participate in the Funeral Mass and share more closely with those who have accompanied them over the last few years.
The death and funeral of Bishop Petit coincides with the closing of the Tokyo Olympics in which, repeatedly, we have seen on television how the first places go up to the award podium, receive the corresponding medal and the flag is raised. and you can hear the notes of the national anthem of which he was champion. This image allows us, on this day, to bring to the memory of the heart the text of the Second Letter of Saint Paul to his disciple Timothy (4,7-8), when he writes: “I have fought my fight well, I have run until the goal, I have kept the faith. All that remains for me is to receive the crown of salvation, which the Lord, the just judge, will give me ”.
Yes, Bishop Petit receives “the crown of salvation”, while the flag is raised that, according to the teachings of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, represents the Kingdom of God in this world and the notes of our National Anthem are heard, because he “fought the fight well” with the virtues proper to the true disciples of the Lord.
At the age of 25, he returned to Cuba recently ordained a priest and it has been 60 years of faithful service to the Church, in the S.M.I. Cathedral and in the Parishes of Cerro and San Francisco de Paula, professor of the Seminary and Rector of the same, Deputy Vice-Secretary of the Episcopal Conference and Auxiliary Bishop from 1992 until his resignation was admitted in 2016.
Pope Francis, during his visit to Cuba, said: “He who does not live to serve, does not serve to live.” This was the life trajectory of Bishop Petit: “living to serve” and, in him, the service entailed moments and stages of suffering for being faithful to his priestly ministry, forming new generations of laity, disciples of Jesus and witness of its Truth. And all this lived, assumed and witnessed with total simplicity and naturalness.
For this, dear brother, I thank you that, as I did in Los Teques, Venezuela, when burying the corpse of Mons. Eduardo Boza Masvidal in the crypt of your Cathedral Church, you place a white rose on the coffin that, according to Marti’s verses are cultivated by those who, like Bishop Petit, have been able to turn the other cheek and always reach out with sincerity and love.
For you, as Archbishop and brother who have accompanied him to the bed of pain (as you did with Cardinal Ortega), for the archdiocesan presbytery that loses a father, brother and friend; for the Daughters of Charity, with whom Bishop Petit always had a bond of closeness and fraternity and for those who always accompanied him from near and far – I am thinking of the De La Salle Alumni and the members of the Cuban Catholic Action- our fraternal and ecclesial embrace.
May the Virgin of Charity have received him in the Father’s house and may Alfredo rest forever in the peace of God.
+ Emilio Aranguren Echeverría
Bishop of Holguín