Cuban bishop retires before synod

By on March 1, 2003

The Canadian primate, Archbishop Michael Peers, Bishop Julio Holguin of the Dominican Republic, and Archbisop Drexel Gomez of the Province of the West Indies form the Cuban church’s metropolitan council.

Havana

The bishop of Cuba, Jorge Perera Hurtado, has resigned effective Feb. 8, 2003. His resignation became effective less than two weeks before Cuba’s annual synod, held this year in Matanzas, to decide if the Episcopal Church in Cuba should rejoin the Episcopal Church in the United States (ECUSA).

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“It was well known that the bishop had been overworking and has health problems,” said Canon Philip Wadham, Latin America/ Caribbean co-ordinator for the Anglican Church of Canada’s partnerships department.

Bishop Perera made his desire to retire known at Cuba’s synod in February, 2002. After presiding over two days of bitter debate over the issue of a successor he called for a one-year “cooling off” period before an electoral synod could be held.

He said in an interview at the time he was determined that the next bishop of Cuba would be elected and not appointed as he was. The metropolitan council chose Bishop Perera as the seventh bishop of Cuba in November 1994.

Since 1967, the Cuban church has been “extra-provincial,” or without a church province, running most of its own affairs under special oversight from the council, which is chaired by the Canadian primate, Archbishop Michael Peers. The council also includes Archbishop Drexel Wellington Gomez, primate of the West Indies.

Until a new bishop can be elected, the acting bishop will be Bishop Julio Cesar Holguin Khoury, bishop of the Dominican Republic. Bishop Holguin, another member of the metropolitan council, was expected to preside over the February synod.

The Cuban church was part of ECUSA as a missionary diocese until 1967, when it was agreed that the two bodies should part company because of the tense political situation between Cuba and the United States. Since the Cubans first announced they were considering asking to rejoin ECUSA, there has been a favorable response from the American church.

Last April, Rev. Patrick Mauney, director of Anglican and global relations for ECUSA, said he was delighted at the prospect of having the Cuban church return. Months later, the ECUSA standing commission on world mission chose to hold one of its regular meetings in Havana Oct. 4-11 to discuss the incorporation of the Cuban church, the Episcopal Church of Puerto Rico and the Anglican Church of Venezuela into ECUSA.

“It was a very positive meeting. The standing commission has been very positive on this whole thing,” Mr. Wadham said.

Cuban clergy presently have no retirement fund and are hoping for access to the ECUSA pension fund, which has $6 billion US in assets.

Rev. Jose Angel Gutierrez, who heads up the diocese’s executive committee, will head the church administration until a new bishop is chosen, Mr. Wadham said.

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