Photo: Carlos Manuel de Cespedes
Hundreds of people gave their final farewell Saturday to Cuban priest and intellectual Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, one of the most outstanding and influential figures of the Catholic Church on this Caribbean island in the last few decades.
Cespedes, who died suddenly on Friday at age 77, was buried Saturday in the priests’ pantheon at Colon Cemetery in Havana, following a crowded funeral ceremony in San Agustin parish, where had served as its priest in recent years.
The Havana church was packed with more than 600 people for the funeral Mass attended by the the archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, along with bishops, priests and seminarians from provinces around the country.
Representing the Cuban government were the president of the National Assembly, Esteban Lazo, and the head of the Religious Affairs Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, Caridad Diego.
Also present was the former Parliament leader, Ricardo Alarcon, the current adviser to Cuban President Raul Castro.
Born in Havana on July 16, 1936, Cespedes said during a television interview a few years ago that “Cuba and the church are my two passions! I’ve always said that, because that’s the way it is.”
Placed on his tomb were floral tributes in the name of Cuban President Raul Castro, the president of the government Writers and Artists Union of Cuba, Miguel Barnet, and also of friends like the director of the National Ballet, Alicia Alonso.
Reporting this Saturday on the priest’s death, official Cuban media said that “he dedicated his life to the Catholic Church and to his country.”
Carlos Manuel de Cespedes studied law and philosophy at the University of Havana and later studied theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where he was ordained a priest in 1961.
In 1963 he returned to Cuba in a time of tension between the Catholic Church and the Cuban Revolution, which had triumphed in 1959 led by Fidel Castro.
Since 1966 until 1970 he was rector of the San Carlos and San Ambrosio Seminary in Havana, where he was also professor of sacred scripture.
In the intellectual world, he published several novels, collaborated with a number of publications and in 2006 was accepted as a member of the Cuban Academy of the Language, becoming the third Catholic dignitary to be part of that institution.