Shrine a Giant Tribute to Bishop and His Devout Cuban Parishioners

By Slavin, J. P. | National Catholic Reporter, January 15, 1993 | Go to article overview

Shrine a Giant Tribute to Bishop and His Devout Cuban Parishioners


Slavin, J. P., National Catholic Reporter


COCONUT GROVE, Fla. -- After I knocked on the door to Bishop Roman's office at a sparkling Catholic shrine built by his fellow Cuban exiles, the most Prominent Cuban in the American church appeared and let me in.

Father Agustin A. Roman, 64, auxiliary bishop of the Miami archdiocese, is a devout theologian. He also is a man of action.

In 1987 he burst onto the national scene when he negotiated a peaceful end to uprisings at two federal prisons where Cuban refugees from the Mariel boat lift were detained.

Asked by the archdiocese's newspaper La Voz whether he'd been afraid while negotiating with nearly 2,100 inmates, Roman said: "Afraid of what? They all came to meet me, crying, and asking me for their blessing. I told them I came as a brother to brothers, as a pastor to his sheep."

Roman told La Voz his prison experience wouldn't change him.

"I will be the same that I was before. A prophet, if you wish, that will call constantly (on) my brothers and sisters to not forget again the people of Mariel."

Roman implied that being a hostage negotiator was not the defining moment of his pastoral service. As he recounted his expulsion from Cuba in 1961, Roman, who was ordained six months after Castro took power, spoke of the events as if they'd occurred but a year ago:

"The beginning of the revolution was very hard on the church," Roman said referring to the Castro regime. "There was lots of repression, and the expulsion of the young priests was done to finish the church.

"I was put onto a Spanish-owned boat in Havana in 1961. They came at night for me.... I had no passport, one book and the clothes on my back.... There were 130 priests and one bishop on the boat. …

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