Agustín Román, the beloved emeritus auxiliary bishop of Miami who was considered the spiritual leader of South Floridas Cuban exile community, died Wednesday night of a heart attack. He was 83.
The viewing will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Our Lady of Charity Shrine in Coconut Grove, the Archdiocese confirmed. It will continue throughout the day Friday.
Funeral Mass is 1 p.m. Saturday at the Cathedral of St. Mary in Miami, followed by burial at 3 p.m. at Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery.
Throughout the morning, mourners trickled in to the Our Lady of Charity Shrine in Coconut Grove to remember Román.
"He was a saint to me," said Silvia Gonzalez, 66, who went to school with Román in Cuba and had since kept in touch. "He devoted his entire life to God. He never even took a vacation."
Gonzalez last saw Román at a Mass during Holy Week.
"We've lost someone who was tremendous," Gonzalez said, her eyes filling up with tears. "But from Heaven, he'll be with me -- and all Cubans."
A humble, gentle man with an iron will and a steadfast moral compass, he was viewed by older Cuban exiles as a champion of freedom and faith. Román, who had retired in 2003, served his God and his people, said those who knew him.
He made his final public appearances in Miami during Pope Benedict XVIs visit to Cuba last month and on Easter Sunday after the pope honored Cuban-born Rev. Felix Varela by bringing him closer to sainthood.
Román had suffered from heart disease for several years. He was found slumped over the wheel of his car on the grounds of Our Lady of Charity Shrine, known in Spanish as Ermita de la Caridad del Cobre, where for decades he lovingly served his flock and carried the Cuban exile banner.
The Archdiocese of Miami has lost a great evangelizer who tirelessly preached the Gospel to all, Archbishop Thomas Wenski said in a statement late Wednesday. And the Cuban nation has lost a great patriot. Bishop Román was the Felix Varela of our time.
The Catholic Church has lost a beloved, humble spiritual leader, said Mary Ross Agosta, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Miami.
As word of his death spread, parishioners gathered at La Ermita in Coconut Grove.
The mourners also included Manuel Perez, 18, who was likened Román to a second grandfather.
"He baptized me, gave me my first Communion," Perez said. "He taught me to pray."
Román would have been a part of another milestone in the teenager's life: He had planned to deliver the baccalaureate sermon at Perez's upcoming graduation from Archbishop McCarthy High School.
Thursday's noon mass at Our Lady of Charity was nearly full. A portrait of Román stood on display on the altar, where it was lit by two pillar candles.
A handful of elderly women clutched Rosary beads. Others dabbed tissues up to their eyes.
A nun broke down in tears when she dedicated the Mass to the recently deceased -- and read Román's name aloud.
Father Fabio Arango celebrated the bishop's legacy throughout the Mass, urging worshipers to follow his example of life and love.
"I am not Cuban," Arango added with a smile. "But he taught me to love Cubans."
Even after Mass had ended, the shrine was the logical place for people to go to pay their final respects.
Alina Novaro, Roman's secretary for more than six years, remembered a kind and humble man. Roman frequently brought roses to her desk as a way of saying thanks, she said.