Bishop Augustin Roman, the Cuban-born auxiliary bishop of Miami, was buried on Saturday. In addition to the prelates from the United States who came for his funeral, bishops from Cuba and Haiti also attended and, in a rarity, the Apostolic Nuncio also flew down from Washington.
It was not only the hierarchy who engaged in this unprecedented outpouring of affection. The U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Miguel Diaz, who is a Cuban-American, issued a statement recalling Bishop Roman's special place in the life of the Church and the Cuban-American people:
On behalf of myself and the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, I wish to express my deepest condolences on the passing away of His Excellency Auxiliary Bishop Agustin Román, the human rights leader who became the first Cuban-American to be consecrated a bishop in the United States.
Bishop Román dedicated his career to pastoral care of vulnerable populations, especially in my home of south Florida. Along with thousands of worshippers whose lives he touched, I was personally inspired by Bishop Román’s commitment to serve those who needed help the most. While he was known for his work among Cuban exiles and for promoting Christian charity in Miami, he was also an inspiration to Catholics in all of South Florida, and cared for people of all religious and cultural backgrounds.
His considered skill as a dispute mediator proved invaluable to the 1980 Mariel boatlift, when Fidel Castro allowed more than 100,000 Cubans to flee to the United States, and again during the 1987 riots of Cuban detainees in U.S. federal prisons. As the man who spearheaded the fundraising for the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, he fostered a genuine sense of community for Miami's Cuban exile community. Although he saved countless lives through his ministry, he remained, in his own words, “a servant, not a hero.”
I extend my condolences to Bishop Román’s family and all those in the Miami area and beyond who remain inspired by his life’s work. Bishop Román was a staunch defender of the right to practice religion freely, and despite his humble claim to the contrary, he was a true hero to hundreds of thousands of believers and freedom-seekers both in the United States and in his native Cuba.