Monday, December 04, 2006


Dearworthy Godfriends,
There are aspects of Florence I particularly love. One of them is that the city comes together to celebrate its great citizens, not the powerful and wealthy but who are those who are humble, who sacrifice, who live for others. Fioretta Mazzei's funeral was like that, Avvocato Torricelli's was like that, and yesterday Don Cuba's [pronounced 'cooba'] as well. Danilo Cubattoli, who died at 80, was ordained priest in 1948, refusing the restrictions of a parish, being simply a prison chaplain. Paolo Coccheri and I visited him in hospital and there he was joking, everyone loving him, when we all knew he was dying, and he was still as handsome as in this photo.

Yesterday we first gathered in the Carmine where he lay, his red motorcycle helmet at his feet in the coffin, a pink rose on his breast, in his priestly vestments, the Polizia Penitenziaria standing on guard. For he rode a motorbicycle and not only that, he knew how to repair it expertly. And everyone was smiling, remembering his joy. Our Russian Orthodox priest came and kissed him and sang prayers. Then we processed behind the coffin as it was carried down the aisle out the door to a most glorious rainbow and walked together through the streets of San Frediano, the poor area of Florence, to its major church, which when we arrived was already filled to standing room only, marquises and counts mingled with convicts and the poor, for everyone loved Don Cuba. The Cardinal and the auxiliary bishop both celebrated. The great gonfalone of the city, the banner with the red lily on white, held by men similarly dressed in red and white, the city's tribute. Then people spoke, a city official in the red, white and green sash, the Orthodox priest saying 'Cuba' believed in the Man of God as including all, if not the Church of God, and that he was his spiritual father, who took him in, a stranger, prison officials and convicts spoke, about how he mediated between them all with laughter. The prisoners had wanted the funeral Mass in the prison. Which was not possible. So, instead, they came to the great church to share in it with us. Finally the Cardinal spoke, saying a convict receiving Communion had put a piece of paper in his hand with a poem on it, which the eminent Cardinal then read, saying Don Cuba had loved everybody, especially those with black hearts, with tattooed arms, that he was both clown and confessor ('giullare e confessore'). Don Cuba, when asked by the worst criminals if it was possible to have God's mercy, resoundingly said 'Yes'. And had told their stories to undo the hardness of our hearts.

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