The Right Reverend Emilio Hernández
VI Bishop of Cuba

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

A faithful servant and devoted bishop has passed from us. Bishop Emilio Hernández died on 19 April. He served the Church bravely and sacrificially during a turbulent and costly era of his country's history. His commitment to the Gospel was indeed unwavering.

We are pleased to offer this tribute, which includes a brief biography written by Father Alejandro Hernández, one of Bishop Emilio's children and Rector of Todos Los Santos, Miami.

May Bishop Emilio rest in peace and rise in glory.

+ Peter
"He was praying and singing hymns to God,
and the other prison ers were listening."
He Served The Purpose of God In His Own Generation

 Dr. Charles R. Lawrence, president of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church is greeted by the Bishop of Cuba, the Right Reverend Emilio Hernandez, left, and by vicar-general, the Rev. Juan Ramon Lopez, right, 1983. (archives)
B ishop Emilio Joaquín Hernández Albalate was born in the city of Morón, province of Camagüey Cuba, on December 7, 1925. His parents were Nicolás de la O Hernández and Micaela Albalate. From this union, also was born Víctor Hugo Hernández.

Bishop Emilio was a restless lover of justice from a very young age. His mother once shared that she once discovered a steak hidden in his pocket. He had planned to offer it to his Afro-Cuban friend Chorizo, who was poor. She also recounted that at other times, when the family went to the movies, he would ask for the cost of his admission ahead of time and leave ahead of the others. When his parents and brother arrived at the cinema, they would hear Millo , as his mother affectionately called him, greeting them from the “henhouse,” what the cinema balcony was called then. The cost of admission was less, so Millo used his admission to pay for himself and invite his friends.

As a teenager, he was once walking with a friend when they met a beggar on the road. His friend began to push and mock the beggar. Emilio struck his friend to stop him. When his friend asked why he had hit him, he replied, “do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you.”

All that said, Bishop Emilio was not perfect, just as no one is. He never believed himself to be perfect because he knew that he would be deceiving himself and not living in the truth. Thanks to his mentor, teacher, and pastor: Reverend Moreno, he discovered very early in life, that he was radically loved by God; that for our sake, God gave his own Son to death on a cross so that everyone who believes in Him, not lose their life but have life eternal. After all, the story did not end in the grave.

Convinced of God's unconditional love for humanity and the need to proclaim this Good News, young Emilio began to feel God's call to ordained ministry. At the time however, his parents wanted him to become a physician. So, desiring to please his parents, he entered the University of Havana to study Medicine. The call continued tugging at his heart until, in his third year of medical school, he left and was soon admitted to the Evangelical Seminary of Theology in Matanzas.

At the time he left medical school, he was already dating Edivia Hilaria Mesa Miranda. She was a beautiful young woman. He met her at Trinity Church in Morón. Edivia had captivated him not only by her beauty, but for her fighting spirit. Her family had been abandoned by her father, so she had to leave school and working to help with her mother’s business of washing clothes in order to help provide her three siblings. After much sacrifice, Edivia and Oristela, her sister, learned the trade of hairdresser and opened a salon named Edivia, administered, by Eloína, her mother.
The couple got married. Edivia left everything to follow her husband to the seminary and to begin a new life in the service of God. Emilio and his wife conceived three children Mayra Sara, Leonel Emilio and Alejandro Félix Hernández. After finishing his theological studies, Reverend Emilio was sent by Bishop Alexander Hugo Blankingship to pastor a small church in Florencia, Camagüey. He would traveling through the fields on horseback to visit the farmers. He baptized hundreds in that community alone.

In Florencia, the Reverend Emilio, strengthened his connection with the July 26 Movement , which he had joined while in seminary with the ideal of ending the prevailing government corruption and restoring constitutionality to the nation of Cuba.

With the triumph of the rebels, the Reverend Emilio would begin a new phase of his life. After rejecting an offer by the mayor of the city of Morón, in order to continue proclaiming the Gospel, he was sent, by Bishop José Agustín González, to the cities of Santiago de Cuba and Palma Soriano to pastor the churches and colleges of both cities.
Shortly after the family had settled in the city of Santiago de Cuba, the Reverend Emilio, outraged by the Castro brothers' betrayal of the principles of the July 26 Movement and the surrender of the country to international communism, joined the Revolutionary Movement of the People. He was betrayed by one of the members of his group and was arrested, imprisoned, and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He might have been pardoned if he had just excepted the rehabilitation plan that required him to renounce his principles, but Reverend Emilio served the entire sentence as a form of protest.

While in prison Reverend Emilio continued to preach the Gospel. There he gathered an ecumenical fellowship that included Roman Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and other Christians. His wife, Edivia, carefully passed him a Book of Common Prayer by using the BCP’s pages to wrap the food that she would deliver to him in prison on her visits.

After serving his sentence, although he would have been allowed to leave the country for the United States, he preferred to remain in Cuba and continue his pastoral ministry in the Episcopal Church.
He was soon sent to the city of Cárdenas to tend to the parishes in that city and the cities of Coliseo, Limonar and Itabo. He was later appointed by Bishop José Agustín González as Archdeacon of the province of Matanzas and professor of the Evangelical Seminary of Theology.

With the announcement of the retirement of the Diocesan Bishop, the Venerable Emilio, along with the Venerable Juan Ramón de Paz and Prospero Mesa, became nominees at the synod that would elect the new bishop of the Diocese of Cuba. Venerable Emilio was elected Bishop Coadjutor of Cuba in 1980 and was consecrated as Diocesan Bishop in 1982.

The bishopric of the illustrious Emilio, which lasted a little more than a decade, was characterized by its simplicity and solidarity, and by its sensitivity to the problems and anxieties of clergy and lay people alike. His legacy also included the fruit of his substantial ecclesial work in the total renewal of the life of the Diocese. 

Among his achievements we can highlight:
  • The Cuban Mass sung poetically and with deeply native criolla tonalities.
  • The ordination of the first women to the Diaconate and Presbyterate, a true milestone in the whole history of the Church on 16 November 1986.
  • The creation of a solid relationship named Fellowship in Mission with the Diocese of Jacksonville, Florida, which ended the isolation of the Cuban Episcopal Church.
  • The creation of the New Ministries movement and the ordination of worker-ministers who would no longer be obligated give up their secular work, in order to train as clergy for the Church.
  • The revitalization of the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Matanzas and the long-needed commitment to supplying new professors and students.
After his retirement Bishop Emilio and his wife Edivia resided in Havana for a time. They would later move to the United States to be with their children, who resided in Miami Dade County and Broward County. Bishop Emilio had been widowed a few years at the time of his death. He resided with his daughter Mayra in the city of Coral Springs.

The Acts of the Apostles referring to King David says: " For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, died." To paraphrase this quote, we could say: "Bishop Emilio, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, died." 

May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, by the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.

Click below if you would like to make a memorial gift in honor of Bishop Emilio Hernández. Please specify if you would like your gift to go to Iglesia Episcopal Todos Los Santos for their ongoing ministry or to The Bishop's Office to further Latino ministries and our relationship with the Church in Cuba.