Photo: Monsignor Emilio Vallina, dead at 87
Monsignor Emilio Vallina, a defender of immigrants and Cuban exiles, died in Miami after a prolonged illness, the Web site Cafe Fuerte reported Monday. He was 87.
Vallina “was a true saint, a man given over to God and in the service of the best causes of this community. The Cuban exile community has lost one of its most virtuous figures,” attorney Rafael Peñalver said on the website.
The founder of St. John Bosco Parish in Little Havana, the Cuban priest was known as the “immigrants’ pastor” for his solidarity with that community.
Born in 1926 in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, he lost his mother at age 6 and was raised by his maternal grandmother in Havana. At 18, he entered the San Carlos seminary in Havana and was ordained a priest in 1952.
“Vallina was expelled by Fidel Castro amid the communist regime’s anti-clerical campaign and (went) to Miami, where he arrived in 1961,” Cafe Fuerte said.
He was pastor of St. John Bosco for 43 years until his retirement in 1986. During that time, the church transformed itself into a refuge for Central American and Cuban immigrants.
With the backing of Miami’s Mercy Hospital, Vallina opened a clinic for poor and undocumented immigrants in a building near the parish church.