Agustin Roman | 1st U.S. Cuban bishop, 83

Posted: April 18, 2012

MIAMI - Agustin Roman, the first Cuban to be appointed bishop in the United States, has died in Miami. He was 83.

The Archdiocese of Miami announced Roman went into cardiac arrest and died last Wednesday. He had suffered from heart disease for several years.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski called Roman a "great patriot" to the Cuban nation.

Officials say Roman and 132 other priests were expelled from Cuba in 1961. He arrived in Miami, where he became a spiritual leader and advocate first for Cuban exiles and later for many other immigrants, including Haitian refugees. He also worked closely with protestant and Jewish leaders.

"The Archdiocese of Miami has lost a great evangelizer who tirelessly preached the Gospel to all. And the Cuban nation has lost a great patriot," Wenski said in a statement.

Roman served as a mediator during the 1980 Mariel boatlift, when Castro allowed more than 100,000 Cubans to flee by sea to the United States.

During his early years in Miami, he urged exiles to donate what little they could afford to build the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity on Biscayne Bay. It became a beacon for exiles and to this day attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year and remains a gathering point for many Cuban-Americans during moments of political crisis.

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