NEW YORK -- The Vatican has declared as venerable Fr. Felix Varela, a 19th-century Cuban priest who worked in New York for many years and also lived in Florida.
Both the New York and Miami archdioceses, where there are many proponents of Varela's sainthood cause, announced the declaration Easter Sunday.
It recognizes the priest lived heroic Christian virtues and is the first official step on the priest's path to sainthood.
The second step is beatification, and the third is sainthood. In general, each of those steps needs a miracle to be accepted by the church as having occurred through the intercession of the prospective saint.
During Pope Benedict XVI's March 26-28 visit to Cuba, he praised Varela as "'a shining example' of the contributions a person of faith can make in building a more just society," noted Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski in a press release posted by the archdiocese. "Varela in his own words reminds us that 'there is no authentic fatherland without virtue.'"