Jaime Lucas Cardinal Ortega y Alamino
Knights of Columbus
Eighth Gaudium et Spes Award Honoree
128th Supreme Convention
Gaudium et Spes Award
August 3, 2010
“The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.”
These opening words of the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World inspired the Knights of Columbus to inaugurate the Gaudium et Spes Award, the Order’s highest honor. We study these words carefully when choosing to bestow this award on an individual who has rendered outstanding service to the Church and to humanity in the name of Jesus Christ.
A good shepherd, says Our Lord, is one who “lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). One way of doing this is to serve selflessly and without reserve the people whom God has entrusted to your care. Our honoree is a prime example of a good shepherd, one who has served his people faithfully and heroically for many years and who has taken into his own heart “the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties” of his flock.
Throughout the history of the Catholic Church, it often has been true that the faith is more cherished when challenged. This has been the case with our Catholic brothers and sisters in Cuba, where the Church has continued to live and grow in a most challenging environment. This leader of the Church in Cuba has himself suffered for his faith, yet has remained a steadfast witness to Jesus Christ, continuing his apostolic ministry with courage and grace.
Our honoree was born in Jaguey Grande, Matanzas, Cuba, in 1936. After studying at seminaries in Cuba and in Quebec, Canada, he was ordained a priest in 1964. Like a number of other priests throughout the years in Cuba, he was imprisoned for a period because of his faith.
Appointed as the Bishop of Pinar del Rio, our honoree received episcopal consecration in 1979. He was appointed Archbishop of Havana, more formally known as the Archdiocese of San Cristobal de La Habana, in 1981 and was elevated to the Sacred College of Cardinals in 1994.
For nearly 30 years as archbishop, our honoree has guided the Cuban Church through often rough waters. But in January 1998, a new era of hope dawned when he welcomed Pope John Paul II to his country. During that apostolic visit, Pope John Paul II asked for Cuba to open itself to the world and for the world to become more open to Cuba, as he underscored the central place that the Catholic faith has played in the lives of the Cuban people.
Our Gaudium et Spes Award honoree has helped to put Pope John Paul II’s sentiments into action. Recent years have seen periods of greater freedom for the Church in Cuba, and just in these past few months, our honoree has been involved in a delicate dialogue with the Cuban government that has resulted in the release of a significant number of political prisoners and improved conditions for others. He has courageously spoken out on a number of important issues, including religious freedom, justice for the poor and oppressed, his country’s economic problems, and the need for the government to change in accord with the demands of the people.
Looking forward to the future of the Church in his country, our honoree will soon be opening the new San Carlos y San Ambrosio National Seminary to prepare Cuban priests, a project for which the Knights of Columbus has provided crucial support.
The Knights of Columbus is honored to pay tribute to a fine and faithful shepherd of souls, and also to recognize the dedication and sacrifices of so many Cuban clergy and laity, by bestowing the eighth Gaudium et Spes Award upon His Eminence Jaime Lucas Cardinal Ortega y Alamino, Archbishop of Havana.