- Catholic News Agency - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Havana, Cuba - The Holy See announced Tuesday that Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Juan de la Caridad García Rodríguez of Camagüey to head the Archdiocese of Havana, Cuba. He will be replacing retiring Cardinal Jaime Ortega Almino.

The Archdiocese of Havana expressed in a statement their gratitude for the appointment and announced that the date of the archbishop’s possession of his new see will be announced in due time.

“Along with our feelings of thanksgiving to God and gratitude to our Holy Father Francis for this appointment, we lift up our prayers to the Lord that he may continue to pour out on Archbishop Juan García, our new Pastor, the gifts of the Spirit, that will help him fulfill this new mission that the pope has entrusted to him,” the Archdiocese of Havana said.

The archdiocese noted that the appointment follows “His Holiness Pope Francis‘ acceptance of Cardinal Jaime Ortega Almino’s resignation which he presented to His Holiness Benedict XVI on October 18, 2011, as Canon 401 Paragraph 1 of the Code of Canon Law stipulates, that the resignation be presented upon reaching 75 years of age.”

It also said that “as witnesses to the invaluable pastoral ministry carried out by Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino since the Holy Father, Saint John Paul II, named him Bishop of Pinar del Rio in 1978 and then Archbishop of Havana in 1981, we express our gratitude to the cardinal for his docility to the action of the Holy Spirit in shepherding the flock entrusted to him.”

The archdiocese reported that the cardinal will take up residence at the “Father Felix Varela” Cultural Center, “where with prayer and his experience he will continue serving the Church; in addition to the functions proper to him as a cardinal of the Church at the service of the pope.”

Archbishop Juan de la Caridad García Rodríguez was born in Camagüey on July 11, 1948, into a simple family – his father was a railroad worker and his mother a housewife.

He entered Saint Basil the Great Seminary in El Cobre and concluded his theological formation at Saints Charles and Ambrose Seminary in Havana – which is now the Father Felix Varela Cultural Center – as part of the group that completed their entire period of priestly formation in Cuba. He was ordained a priest in 1972 when he was not yet 24 years old.

His first years in priestly ministry were spent with the current Ciego de Ávila Diocese which was erected by Saint John Paul II in 1995.

On March 15, 1997, he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Camagüey and was ordained a bishop in Our Lady of Mercy Church in the city of Camagüey on June 7 the same year, with the laying on of hands by then-Bishop Adolfo Rodríguez Herrera, who had also ordained him as a priest. His episcopal motto is: “Go and announce the Gospel.”

In late 1998, the Diocese of Camagüey was elevated to the rank of archdiocese. On June 10, 2002, then-Auxiliary Bishop García Rodríguez became the second archbishop of Camagüey.

Among other positions he held, Archbishop García Rodríguez was the president of First National Missions Assembly which took place in Havana in 2006. He represented the Cuban bishops in 2007 at the Fifth General Assembly at Aparecida, Brazil and invited Benedict XVI to visit Cuba.

In February 2007 he was appointed a member of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. In 2008 he presided at the beatification of Brother Olallo Valdés and initiated the process for the beatification of his predecessor, the Servant of God, Archbishop Adolfo Rodríguez Herrera.

He is currently a member of the Standing Committee of the Cuban Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Commissions on Missions and the Family. He represented the Cuban bishops at the 2014 Synod on the Family.

In a statement released by the bishops’ conference, “the simplicity of life, apostolic dedication, prayer, and a life of virtue” of the new Archbishop of Havana were highlighted.

Known “in a special way for his sense of brotherhood with the priests, as well as his gestures of great understanding, service and support, as well as discrete and firm authority, without a doubt, as Pope Francis characterized him, one can say that the man named Archbishop of Havana is a shepherd who ‘has the smell of his sheep’,” the statement said.

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