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Pope Benedict declares Father Felix Varela as venerable

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Following the unanimous recommendation of the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes, Pope Benedict XVI has given his approval for Father Felix Varela to be given the status of “venerable” — which means that he could be beatified with the recognition of one miracle granted through his intercession, and canonized with the recognition of a second miracle.

The pope’s declaration will be announced on Easter Sunday, April 8, by New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan.  The Archdiocese of Miami will hold a press conference led by Father Juan Rumin Dominguez at the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity on Easter Sunday at 1 p.m. inside the Felix Varela Conference Room.

Reacting to the news, Archbishop Thomas Wenski stated: “In his homily in Havana, Pope Benedict called Father Felix Varela ‘a shining example’ of the contributions a person of faith can make in building a more just society. Varela in his own words reminds us that ‘there is no authentic fatherland without virtue.’ In recognizing this holy priest’s heroic virtue by conferring on him the title of ‘Venerable,’ the pope offers to the world a role model who in being ‘the first to teach his people how to think’ also show us a path to a true transformation of society.”

Born in Havana on Nov. 20, 1788, the Venerable Father Varela was ordained a priest at age 23. He already had distinguished himself as “a man of culture and profound learning,” and had even written a philosophy text that had been adopted by other schools. In 1821, he was elected to represent Cuba in the Spanish Parliament. Among the laws he proposed were one calling for the abolition of slavery and another calling for self-rule for Spain’s colonies in the Americas. After his exile from Cuba in 1823, Father Varela worked for 30 years in the Archdiocese of New York, as vicar general and advocate for Irish immigrants. He died in St. Augustine, Fla., where he also had studied as a child, in February 1853. His remains were later moved to the Aula Magna of the University of Havana, where they can be viewed today.

The declaration by the Congregation for Saints’ Causes is available in English and Spanish. The declaration includes details about the life of the Venerable Padre Varela and his cause for canonization.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Charity is located at 3609 South Miami Avenue in Miami.

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