First woman bishop for Cuban church dies

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Canon Nerva Cot Aguilera speaks after her appointment as suffragan bishop in 2007. Archdeacon Ulises Mario Aguiera, left, was also appointed suffragan. To her right: Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Archbishop Andrew Hutchison. Photo: Vianney Carriere

The first woman bishop in the Episcopal Church of Cuba and in the Caribbean, Nerva Cot Aguilera, died on July 10 after a brief battle with severe anemia, the Episcopal News Service (ENS) has reported.  She was 71.

Bishop Cot became the first woman Anglican bishop in the developing world when she was consecrated in Havana’s Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in June 2007. She retired in 2008 after a ministry in the church that began in 1987 when she became one of the first three Episcopal women priests in Cuba.

“I feel very honoured by my designation,” Bishop Cot told the Associated Press shortly after her consecration as suffragan bishop. “It’s a historic act that demonstrates women’s possibilities.”

The presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church in the United States, Katharine Jefferts Schori , told ENS she was “deeply saddened” by Bishop Cot’s death. “She was a friend and colleague, and I know the church in Cuba will miss the gifts she offered, even in retirement. She provided good leadership in the Episcopal Church of Cuba as they began to explore the possibilities of a second diocese.”
Archbishop
Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada and chair of the Metropolitan Council of Cuba, is writing a letter to the Cuban church “to express our sympathy and appreciation for (Bishop Cot’s) ministry,” said Archdeacon Paul Feheley, principal secretary to the primate.

Archbishop Hiltz and Bishop Jefferts Schori are two of three members of the Metropolitan Council of Cuba, which has overseen the Cuban church’s affairs since 1967. The Cuban church split from the U.S. church due to difficult relations between their two countries’ governments.

Archbishop Andrew Hutchison,  primate of the Anglican Church of Canada at the time of Bishop Cot’s appointment, said in a 2007 interview that “gender had nothing to do” with her selection. “She presented a wonderful mission statement. Her passion for mission is very impressive.”

Bishop Jefferts Schori said Bishop Cot’s appointment was “a wonderful reminder that in some nations leadership is primarily about gifts of service and not about gender.”

Bishop Cot was a secondary school teacher before she became a priest. As suffragan bishop she served under Cuba’s interim bishop, Miguel Tamayo.
Bishop Cot is survived by her husband, the Very Rev. Juan Ramon de la Paz Cerezo, dean of Holy Trinity Cathedral,  and their three grown children.

The funeral for Bishop Cot was held July 11 at the cathedral in Havana.

Anglicans number about 10,000 in Cuba, which has a population of more than 11 million.

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