Reporting Maggie Newland
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MIAMI (CBS4) – Miami’s Cuban exile community is mourning the loss of a beloved spiritual leader.
Catholics packed The Shrine of Our Lady of Charity for Thursday night’s visitation.
Auxiliary Bishop Agustín Román died Wednesday night in Miami. He was 83 years old.
Bishop Román was at the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity when he suffered a heart attack. He was rushed to Mercy Hospital and, following extensive resuscitation, was pronounced dead shortly before 8:45 p.m.
Roman had reportedly suffered from heart disease in recent years.
“The Archdiocese of Miami has lost a great evangelizer who tirelessly preached the Gospel to all. And the Cuban nation has lost a great patriot. Bishop Roman was the Felix Varela of our time,” said Archbishop Thomas Wenski.
Bishop Román came to Miami in 1966, where he became identified, almost immediately, with the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, Cuba’s patroness. He oversaw its construction and remained active there even after retiring as its rector and as Miami auxiliary bishop, and up to the last months of his life.
“This is his creation practically,” said Marta Ciceraro, “He did it with pennies from the Cubans you know.”
Miami Mayor Thomas Regalado said, “he never asked to be a leader, but he was the leader of the Cuban community.”
Those who knew the Bishop called him, “approachable.” Tresa Espejo said, “he made a big impact in my life. He changed my life when I was going through a crisis.”
Bishop Román made his last public appearance on Easter Sunday, after Pope Benedict XVI honored the Cuban-born Rev. Varela by bringing him closer to sainthood.
“He was always working, you never saw him sitting down,” said Ciceraro, “Either hearing confessions or celebrating mass. He was very loved in the community.”
“His death, it’s going to be an inspiration for me more than a lament,” said Father Juan Sosa of St. Josepth Catholic Church. “I feel that he will be a source of inspiration, of renewed evangelization and renewed spirit of announcing the good news of Jesus to others.”
Appointed auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Miami in 1979, Bishop Román was the first Cuban to be appointed bishop in the U.S. He was expelled from Cuba, along with 133 other clerics, in 1961 by the Fidel Castro’s regime.
“Like so many of the people that he served, Bishop Román was forced from his homeland and found opportunity and a new life on our shores,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez in a statement. “He was a pillar of the Cuban exile community and a relentless defender of the human rights of all immigrants. He will be missed – and fondly remembered – by all of us who were fortunate to have known him.”
The body of Bishop Román will be moved to the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, 3609 South Miami Avenue on Thursday where a wake will be held at 6 p.m. for visitations and last respects. On Saturday, there will be all day visitation and public viewing at the shrine.
On Saturday, the body of Bishop Román will taken shrine to the Cathedral of St. Mary at 7525 NW 2 Avenue in Miami. At 1 p.m., Archbishop Thomas Wenski will celebrate a funeral Mass at the cathedral followed by internment at 3 p.m. at Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery.