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Cuba after Irma: “The chapel may have collapsed, but not the Church”

Hurricane Irma in Cuba September 2017

Aid to the Church in Need

Zelda Caldwell - published on 09/14/17

In spite of the destruction, as soon as the storm abated, the Church's work continued

Hurricane Irma battered the Cuban town of Esmeralda for nine hours, with 155 mph winds forcing some 7,000 people to be evacuated and leaving devastation in its wake.

Archbishop Wilfred Pino Estevez told the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that after touring the area he found that, in spite of the destruction, the Church is alive in well, and doing what it does best – helping people in need.

“When we arrived in Esmeralda, we celebrated Mass there with the handful of people who were able to attend,” Archbishop Estevez said.

“There too we saw many damaged homes, partially or totally demolished, roofless, etc. Some of the people were still visibly scared. ‘What a long night that was!’ was the most common thing I heard from the people I talked to.”

In the small town of Jiquí the chapel was destroyed, the archbishop told ACN.

“It was painful to see our church totally razed to the ground, with the benches smashed and the holy pictures ruined,” he said.

While he was in Jiquí, he met with Ismaela, a local woman whose words left a deep impression on him: “Archbishop, the chapel may have collapsed, but not the Church.”

The work of the Church continued as soon as the storm abated. Archbishop Estevez reported that when he asked his priests and religious how they were doing their response was unanimous: “We are well, but we were going out with some food and a few other things, practical items, in order to help anyone who may be in need.” While the annual procession for the feast of Our Lady of Charity, the patroness of Cuba, had to be canceled due to the storm, Archbishop Estevez said, “now, as on other occasions, Our Good Lord is inviting us to make ‘processions of love’ like the ones I’ve just been telling you about.”

ACN reported that they intend to help restore the ruined churches in Jaronú and Jiquí.

Ulrich Kny, ACN’s project director in Cuba, said that if the local bishops requested help, ACN would provide aid “so that the Church can act as an instrument of God’s mercy and help remedy some of the damage caused by the hurricane, which also did not spare other dioceses, such as Ciego de Ávila, Santa Clara, Matanzas and Havana.”

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