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Cuban Episcopalians Welcome New Bishops Suffragan

Posted on: June 12, 2007 4:11 PM
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, left, and Latin America's first woman bishop, Obispa Sufraganea Nerva Cot Aguilera, right.
Photo Credit: ENS
Related Categories: Cuba

The Revd Canon Nerva Cot and Archdeacon Ulises Aguero ordained to Episcopate

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"Asi lo haremos - We will!" thundered the standing-room-only congregation at Havana's Episcopal Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, when asked if they would accept as Cuba's first bishops suffragan the Revd Canon Nerva Cot Aguilera and Archdeacon Ulises Mario Aguero Prendes.

The Revd Cot - the first woman Anglican bishop in Latin America and Archdeacon Aguero were consecrated in a nearly three-hour service Sunday, June 10 that blended Anglican dignity and Cuban spontaneity. Anglican and Episcopal bishops from Europe and North, Central and South America joined representatives from a number of Cuban faith traditions, including Greek Orthodox and Afro-Cuban clergy, along with the head of the Religious Affairs Office for the Communist Party of Cuba, Caridad Diego, who told the BBC her government, was proud that the country had a woman bishop. Since 1992, Article 8 of the Cuban Constitution has stated that the country's communist government "recognizes respects and guarantees freedom of religion."

"It was a very important day for the church in Cuba," said Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who participated in the rites. "The presence of so many members of other parts of Communion was a gift."

Also present were bishops from Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, and Spain, among other countries.

The two bishops were selected in February by the Metropolitan Council that provides provincial oversight to Cuba. After interviewing seven candidates, the council named Revd Nerva Cot Aguilera and Archdeacon Ulises Aguero Prendes to assist interim Bishop Miguel Tamayo in local oversight of some 40 congregations serving Cuba’s estimated 10,000 Episcopalians. The council, headed by Canadian Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, includes Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the West Indies.

Bishop Tamayo and his wife, the Revd Martha Lopez, are both Cubans who were sent as missionaries to Uruguay more than a decade ago. In 1998, Bishop Tamayo was elected Bishop of Uruguay, and in January 2004 he agreed to serve as interim diocesan bishop in Cuba, splitting his time between the two countries.

Prior to his selection as bishop suffragan, Archdeacon Aguero was archdeacon in Santiago de Cuba and rector of two congregations, St. Mary's and St. Luke's.

A great day for Anglican women in Latin America. Soon-to-be consecrated Bishop Nerva Cot Aguilera, center.
A great day for Anglican women in Latin America. Soon-to-be consecrated Bishop Nerva Cot Aguilera, center.
Photo Credit: ENS

The 69-year-old Revd Cot was a secondary school teacher and one of the first three Episcopal women priests ordained in Cuba in 1987. Her daughter, Marianela de la Paz Cot, was ordained in February, and her husband, the Very Revd Juan Ramon de la Paz Cerezo, is dean of the cathedral in Havana. Another son is a priest and another daughter is a church administrator.

The Revd Cot promised a new feminine model of leadership for the Cuban church, which has suffered internal tensions stemming from the government's long-term suspicion of religious organizations - what she called a "period of polarization" for the church.

"This is an important date for the Anglican Communion because there are so few women bishops among us," Archbishop Hutchison pointed out.

Revd Cot is responsible for the churches in western Cuba, while Archdeacon Aguero will oversee the eastern part of the island. Both hope that two new dioceses can be established within a few years.

The Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba (IEC) traces its beginnings to 1871, when an Episcopal bishop visited Havana in the middle of an epidemic and on his return began lobbying the Episcopal Church to send missionaries to the island nation. Indigenous congregations, led by Cuban clergy trained in the U.S., followed independence from Spain in 1898, and the missionary diocese of Cuba was established in 1901.

The Rt Rev Romuald Gonzales, a native of Spain, became the first Cuban citizen to become a bishop in the IEC in 1961. By 1967, the church had its first Cuban-born bishop, the Rt Revd José Gonzalez.

But by that time political tensions between the U.S. and Cuba presented such travel and communication difficulties that the Cuban church became an extra-provincial diocese under the Metropolitan Council of Cuba (MCC).

Article from: Episcopal News Service – by the Revd Jan Nunley