Travel agent who set up Cuba pilgrimage finds forgiveness after arson
Published: July 6, 2012
MIAMI (CNS) -- Meeting with church leaders and pilgrims who traveled to Cuba for Pope Benedict XVI's visit there in March, the Florida travel agent whose offices were set ablaze after arranging the pilgrimage is at peace about the matter. "I forgive the person who did this. I may have lost an office, but this person is carrying around what he did in his heart," said Airline Brokers owner Vivian Mannerud at a gathering June 28 at which Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski blessed a new temporary office space for the company. State and local law enforcement agencies have been investigating the April 27 fire at the main offices of Airline Brokers, which specializes in charter flights to Cuba for mostly Cuban-Americans. The local fire department subsequently confirmed that the fire was deliberately set to the agency, which suspiciously took place about a month after Airline Brokers arranged for nearly 700 U.S. pilgrims to travel to Santiago and Havana, Cuba, March 26-30. There have been no arrests in the firebombing, but earlier in June, the FBI released pictures of a "vehicle of interest" acquired by security cameras at the crime scene in the Miami suburb of Coral Gables south of Miami International Airport. The incident is another chapter in a story of local tensions and violence involving local businesses wishing to engage in trade or travel with Cuba. Calling for a sense of Christian forgiveness against those who have caused the harm but also urging justice in the matter, Archbishop Wenski blessed the new temporary space of Airline Brokers, now located on the third floor of a secured office building not far from the previous location. The archbishop affirmed Mannerud's work in reuniting Cubans exiles and their homeland through travel. "Her work is important work in bringing families together," Archbishop Wenski said. "We do not hold hatred in our hearts for those who do us wrong and we pray for a change of hearts."
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