Pope Declares Father Felix Varela "Venerable"

The decision was recommended by the Vatican's Congregation for Saints' Causes.

By Karen Franklin
|  Sunday, Apr 8, 2012  |  Updated 1:49 PM EDT
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Archbishop Wenski Talks Pope's Trip to Cuba

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FĂ©lix Varela was ordained a priest in Havana and argued for the independence of Latin America and the freedom of slaves in the 19th century.

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Students and staff at Felix Varela Senior High School in southwest Miami-Dade have something to celebrate.

The Archdiocese of Miami announced Easter Sunday that the pope, after being recommended by the Vatican's Congregation for Saints' Causes, approved Father Felix Varela to be given the status of "venerable."

"In recognizing this holy priest’s heroic virtue by conferring on him the title of ‘Venerable,’ the pope offers to the world a role model who in being ‘the first to teach his people how to think’ also show us a path to a true transformation of society,” said Archbishop Thomas Wenski, who recently returned from a pilgrimage to Cuba.

In March, students of Varela Senior High hoped that Pope Benedict XVI would mention Varela's name on his visit to Cuba to indicate that the last steps to Varela's sainthood were being taken.

“He was a patron of the arts, he enjoyed science, a musician, he was truly a revolutionary person,” student Sebastian Villanueva said.

Varela was born in Havana and ordained a priest at 23. He argued for the independence of Latin America and the freedom of slaves in the 19th century.

In 1823, Varela was forced to flee Spain and came to New York. He died in St. Augustine.

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