Bishop Biography: Exiles' "Spiritual Father" Helped Make U.S.-Cuba Normalization Easier

Nov 13, 2015

In one respect, the late Roman Catholic Archbishop Agustín Román was just like many of his fellow Cuban exiles he ministered to for almost half a century in Miami.

As long as the communist regime that expelled him and so many other priests at gunpoint in the 1960s remained in power, Román would never return there. And until he died in 2012, he never did.

But Daniel Shoer Roth’s richly detailed new biography – “Agustín Román: Pastor, Profeta, Patriarca” – leaves little doubt that in one other key sense, the bishop was different.

RELATED: Biographer Shoer Roth On 'The Spiritual Father' Of Miami's Cuban Exiles

While so much of the exile leadership preached utter isolation of Cuba, Román slowly built bridges across the Florida Straits. In fact, the cleric revered today as the exile community’s spiritual father – the man who built La Ermita, the Coconut Grove shrine to Cuba's patroness, Our Lady of Charity – helped pave the way, from a religious standpoint, for this year’s re-establishment of U.S.-Cuba diplomatic ties.

Roman had already created those bonds with the Cuban population long before anyone came to talk about reconciliation. –Daniel Shoer Roth

“He was actually one of the first to do so,” Shoer Roth, religion columnist for El Nuevo Herald, tells WLRN in a two-part interview that airs today and Monday. In homilies Shoer Roth found, for example, Román often preached what the bishop called a “search for necessary convergences” between the two countries.

“In 1985, when the U.S. government launched Radio Martí” [broadcasts into Cuba], “Monsignor Román’s Saturday night masses aired in all of Cuba, and he actually became one of the most popular figures on the island,” Shoer Roth points out.

As a result, by the time President Obama announced U.S.-Cuba normalization last December, Shoer Roth says, “Román had already created those bonds with the Cuban population long before anyone came to talk about reconciliation.”

Shoer Roth says he hopes "Pastor, Profeta, Patriarca" ("Pastor, Prophet, Patriarch"), published recently in Spanish, will soon be translated into English – especially, he notes, because “that’s what I think the new generation of Cuban-Americans will need.”

Either way, Shoer Roth, who conducted lengthy interviews with Román, will discuss the biography at the Miami Book Fair International on Saturday at 3:30 pm at Miami Dade College’s Koubek Center , 2705 SW Third St.