The Organization of the Church at the beginning of the Twentieth Century

The island was divided ecclesiastically into one archdiocese and three suffragan dioceses as follows: the Archdiocese of Santiago de Cuba, created as such in 1804, comprising the civil province of the same name and that of Puerto Principe; the Diocese of La Habana, established in 1788, comprising the civil provinces of La Habana and Matanzas; the Diocese of Cienfuegos, established in 1903, which includes the province of Santa Clara; the diocese of Pinar del Rio, established at the same time as the preceding in 1903, and comprising the civil province of the same name and the Isle of Pines.

Cathedral of Habana As the Island grew, new dioceses were established at Matanzas in 1915 and Camaguey in 1922. La Habana was made an Archdiocese in 1925 with jursdiction over the dioceses of Matanzas and Pinar del Rio, while the Archdiocese of Santiago de Cuba had jurisdiction over the dioceses of Camaguey and Cienfuegos.

More recently, the diocese of Holguin was created in 1979 and that of Bayamo-Manzanillo in 1995. In 1996 the diocese of Ciego de Avila was created and in 1998 that of Guantanamo-Baracoa.

Today, Cuba has the Archdioceses of La Habana, Camaguey and Santiago de Cuba, and eleven dioceses.

Cuba’s patron saint, is la Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (the Virgin of Cobre) and the important religious festival “La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre” is celebrated by Cubans annually on 8 September.

In 1899 the remains of Christopher Columbus, which had been brought from Santo Domingo in 1796 and had since then been preserved in the cathedral of Havana, were once more removed, this time to Seville in Spain.

The Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba was the metropolitan of the island. Francisco Barnaba Aguilar, the first native incumbent of this metropolitan see, was consecrated by Archbishop Chapelle, 1 July, 1899.

Under Spanish rule all the bishops, as well as most of the priests of the island were appointed from Madrid. An Apostolic Delegate for Cuba and Puerto Rico resided at Havana. He was not accredited to the Cuban Government, and Cuba had no official representative at the Vatican. The first delegate was Archbishop Chapelle of New Orleans, who was sent by Leo XIII to look after the interests of the Church in Cuba during the American occupation.

At the beginning of the XXth Century there were in the island 199 secular, and 129 regular priests.

Of the institutions conducted by religious orders, there were 13 colleges for boys, 17 schools and academies for girls, 5 orphan asylums, 1 reform school, 2 houses of the Good Shepherd, 2 asylums for the aged, and 2 hospitals.

The clergy were exempted from military service and jury duty. There were no chapels in the prisons; wills and inheritances were subject only to civil laws; cemeteries were owned in some instances by the municipalities, in others, as at Havana, by the Church. Church property was held in the name of “the Roman Catholic Church”. Both civil and religious marriages were legal and binding and persons could be married according to either or both. Divorce was not legally recognized.