Coconut Grove

Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski steps up on world stage

In Cuba last week for the opening of the island's first seminary since the revolution, Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski was mingling over wine and cheese with an international group of bishops when he ran into a man in a white guayabera.

It was Cuban leader Raúl Castro.

``I read that article you were quoted in,'' Castro said to Wenski, referring to an El Nuevo Herald story in which the archbishop had offered a critique of socialism.

``Oh, it was fine,'' Wenski said of the article. ``No, it wasn't,'' Castro retorted.

The two ``agreed to disagree,'' although the archbishop told Castro ``systems have to be overcome here and there.''

The interaction offers a glimpse into the high-powered worlds, sacred and political, where Wenski circulates with ease and, lately, frequency.

Five months since becoming head of South Florida's archdiocese, Wenski is quickly upping his role as a national Catholic leader. He is often called upon by the influential Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to represent them as he did in Cuba -- and as an international diplomat.

Fresh from his three-day trip to the island, where he also toured parishes supported by the U.S. church, Wenski will host a delegation of Cuban clergy, led by Bishop Arturo Gonzalez of Santa Clara and including a dozen other priests and a nun, in a three-day Miami meeting that begins Monday.

It starts with a Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity in Coconut Grove -- the spiritual heart of the exile community -- and will also include services in Kendall and Hialeah. Read more at