Nuestra Señora de Caridad del Cobre
In 1612 , two native Indians, Rodrigo and Juan de Hoyos, together with a ten-year-old slave boy, Juan Moreno, went out looking for the salt needed to preserve the meat of the Barajagua slaughter house, which supplied the workers and inhabitants of "Santiago del Prado," now known as "El Cobre." That day they were just able to reach Cayo Francés, halfway across the Bay of Nipe, where they encamped to escape the fury of a storm which would have torn their frail canoe to pieces.
Calm was restored with daybreak, and they took to the transparent sea. In the distance, they saw a white bundle floating on the waves and approaching them slowly. At first they took it for a sea bird. As it came closer, it seemed to be a girl and at last they were able to determine that it was a statue of the Virgin Mary holding the child on her right arm and with a gold cross in her left hand. The statue was fastened to a board with the inscription, "I am the Virgin of Charity.
Calm was restored with daybreak, and they took to the transparent sea. In the distance, they saw a white bundle floating on the waves and approaching them slowly. At first they took it for a sea bird. As it came closer, it seemed to be a girl and at last they were able to determine that it was a statue of the Virgin Mary holding the child on her right arm and with a gold cross in her left hand. The statue was fastened to a board with the inscription, "I am the Virgin of Charity."
At the request of the veterans of the War of Independence, Our Lady of Charity was declared the patroness of Cuba by Benedict XV.
The statue of Our Lady of Charity was solemnly crowned in the Eucharistic Congress held in Santiago de Cuba.
Pope Paul VI raised her sanctuary to the category of Basilica.
March 26, 2012
Pope Benedict made a special visit to Cuba to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Our Lady of Charity and knelt in prayer before her image. "I have entrusted to the Mother of God the future of your country, advancing along the ways of renewal and hope, for the greater good of all Cubans," the pope said. "I have also prayed to the Virgin for the needs of those who suffer, of those who are deprived of freedom, those who are separated from their loved ones or who are undergoing times of difficulty."
Description of the Virgin
The head of the statue is of baked clay covered with a polished coat of fine white powder, possibly rice paste, and the recent thorough renovation of the image revealed the fine features which countless paint coatings had deformed. A well-shaped nose and a well-proportioned face with large, loving eyes convey a gentleness that invites trust and prayer. The Virgin is about sixteen inches high and her feet rest on a brilliant moon whose ends surround on both sides the silver cloud where three cherubs spread their golden wings. The Child, at the left side of the statue, raises a hand as if blessing, and in his other hand he holds a gold globe. The entire figure is covered by a heavy cloak which gives it the typical triangular shape.
The statue's original clothing was white, but the faithful have given her gold and silver colored robes. Because Our Lady of Charity is a symbol of Cuban nationality, popular statues give her a white robe, a blue cloak and have the Child dressed in red: the colors of the Cuban flag. Nowadays the Virgin's dress, a copy of a very early one, is of heavy lamé with gold threads, and has the national Cuban shield embroidered on the skirt.
The simple folk have gotten used to the image of their "Cachita" with the small boat at her feet and in it the "Three Juans" who found her floating on the water. This detail is omitted in the oldest reproductions which copied the original statue.
Miracles, Cures, and Signs
According to the sworn testimony of witnesses, despite the recent storm and the motion of the waves, neither the figure of the Virgin, nor her clothing, was wet.
The miraculous discovery of the statue of Our Lady of Charity del Cobre is not not an apparition of Our Lady but instead an event that surrounds an image of Our Lady that has become a symbol of a nation. No investigation or formal approval of the event has been made by the Church but traditionally and through the visits of popes, her cult has been approved.
At the request of the veterans of the War of Independence, Our Lady of Charity was declared the patroness of Cuba by Benedict XV in 1916. In 1936, the statue of Our Lady of Charity was solemnly crowned in the Eucharistic Congress held in Santiago de Cuba. Pope Paul VI raised her sanctuary to the category of Basilica in 1977. On March 26, 2012, Pope Benedict made a special visit to Cuba to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Our Lady of Charity and knelt in prayer before her image. "I have entrusted to the Mother of God the future of your country, advancing along the ways of renewal and hope, for the greater good of all Cubans," the pope said. "I have also prayed to the Virgin for the needs of those who suffer, of those who are deprived of freedom, those who are separated from their loved ones or who are undergoing times of difficulty."
The feast day of the Virgin of Charity is September 8th.
Benedict XVI's Address on his visit to Cuba for the 400th Anniversary of the Virgin of Charity (3/26/2012)
Dear Cardinals and Brother Bishops,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear People of Cuba,
Thank you, Mr President, for your welcome and your kind words, with which you also conveyed the sentiments of respect of the Cuban government and people for the Successor of Peter. I greet the civil authorities here present, as well as the members of the diplomatic corps. I cordially greet the President of the Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Dionisio Guillermo García Ibáñez of Santiago de Cuba; the Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, and my other Brother Bishops of Cuba, and I assure them of my deep spiritual closeness.
Finally, I greet with heartfelt affection all the faithful of the Catholic Church in Cuba, the beloved people of this beautiful island, and all Cubans wherever they may be. You are always present in my heart and prayers, especially in the days preceding the much anticipated moment of my visit to you, which the grace and goodness of God has made possible.
Standing here among you, I cannot but recall the historic visit to Cuba of my predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, who left an indelible mark on the soul of all Cubans. For many, whether believers or not, his example and his teachings are a luminous guide for their personal lives and their public activity in the service of the common good of the nation.
His visit to this island was like a gentle breath of fresh air which gave new strength to the Church in Cuba, awakening in many a renewed awareness of the importance of faith and inspiring them to open their hearts to Christ, while at the same time kindling their hope and encouraging their desire to work fearlessly for a better future.
One of the important fruits of that visit was the inauguration of a new phase in the relationship in Cuba between Church and State, in a new spirit of cooperation and trust, even if many areas remain in which greater progress can and ought to be made, especially as regards the indispensable public contribution that religion is called to make in the life of society.
I am pleased to share your joy as you celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of the holy statue of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre. Since the beginning she has been very much present in the personal lives of Cubans as well as in the great events of the nation, especially since independence, for she is honoured by all as the true mother of the Cuban people.
Devotion to the Virgen Mambisa has sustained the faith and inspired the defence and promotion of all that gives dignity to the human condition and its fundamental rights, and continues to do so today with ever greater strength, giving visible witness to the fruitfulness of the preaching of the Gospel in these lands, and to the profound Christian roots which shape the deepest identity of the Cuban soul.
Following in the footsteps of countless pilgrims down the centuries, I too wish to go to El Cobre to kneel at the feet of the Mother of God, to thank her for her concern for all her Cuban children, and to ask her to guide the future of this beloved nation in the ways of justice, peace, freedom and reconciliation.
I come to Cuba as a pilgrim of charity, to confirm my brothers and sisters in the faith and strengthen them in the hope which is born of the presence of God's love in our lives. I carry in my heart the just aspirations and legitimate desires of all Cubans, wherever they may be, their sufferings and their joys, their concerns and their noblest desires, those of the young and the elderly, of adolescents and children, of the sick and workers, of prisoners and their families, and of the poor and those in need.
Many parts of the world today are experiencing a time of particular economic difficulty, that not a few people regard as part of a profound spiritual and moral crisis which has left humanity devoid of values and defenceless before the ambition and selfishness of certain powers which take little account of the true good of individuals and families. We can no longer continue in the same cultural and moral direction which has caused the painful situation that many suffer.
On the other hand, real progress calls for an ethics which focuses on the human person and takes account of the most profound human needs, especially man's spiritual and religious dimension. In the hearts and minds of many, the way is thus opening to an ever greater certainty that the rebirth of society demands upright men and women of firm moral convictions, with noble and strong values who will not be manipulated by dubious interests and who are respectful of the unchanging and transcendent nature of the human person.
Dear friends, I am convinced that Cuba, at this moment of particular importance in its history, is already looking to the future, and thus is striving to renew and broaden its horizons. Of great help in this enterprise will be the fine patrimony of spiritual and moral values which fashioned the nation's true identity, and which stand out in the work and the life of many distinguished fathers of the country, like Blessed José Olallo y Valdés, the Servant of God Félix Varela, and the acclaimed José Martí.
For her part, the Church too has diligently contributed to the cultivation of those values through her generous and selfless pastoral mission, and renews her commitment to work tirelessly the better to serve all Cubans.
I ask the Lord to bless abundantly this land and its children, in particular those who feel disadvantaged, the excluded and all those who suffer in body or spirit. At the same time, I pray that, through the intercession of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, he will grant to all a future of hope, solidarity and harmony.
Prayer to Our Lady of Charity, Patroness of Cuba
Most Holy Mother of Charity
who came to us as a messenger of peace across the sea.
You are the Mother of all Cubans
To you we come, Most Holy Mother of God
to honor you with love as your children.
To your motherly heart
we entrust our desires and hopes
our work and our prayers.
We pray for our torn country
that we may be able to build
a nation based on peace and unity.
We pray for our families
that they may live in fidelity and love.
We pray for our children
that they may grow strong
in spirit and in body.
We pray for our young people
that their faith may increase,
as well as their attachment to
We pray for the sick, the homeless,
the lonely, the exiled,
and for all suffering souls.
We pray for the Catholic Church in Cuba,
for its mission,
for its priests, deacons,
religious and laity.
We pray for the victory
of justice and love
in our country.
Mother of Charity!
We place ourselves
under your mantle of protection!
Blessed are you among women
and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus!
And to Him be the glory and the power
now and forever.
Island Queen: A reflection on Our Lady of Charity (US Catholic Magazine)