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Venezuelan doctor beatified in 3rd step toward sainthood

by JORGE RUEDA THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | May 1, 2021 at 4:08 a.m.
People gather Friday outside the church associated with the late Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez during his beatification ceremony in Caracas, Venezuela. He was known as the “doctor of the poor.” (AP/Ariana Cubillos)

CARACAS, Venezuela -- A man revered by millions of Venezuelans as the "doctor of the poor" is one step away from sainthood after being beatified Friday in the country's capital.

Jose Gregorio Hernandez, who died in 1919, was beatified in a simple and emotional ceremony, culminating decades of efforts by Venezuela's Catholics.

Apostolic Nuncio Aldo Giordano, representing the Vatican, said Hernandez "will be called blessed and celebrated every year."

"It seems providential to celebrate the beatification of a doctor in the midst of a pandemic that affects all of humanity," Giordano said. "In the figure of Blessed Dr. Jose Gregorio, the church today pays a tribute of recognition, gratitude and prayer to medical and health professionals."

He added that Hernandez is capable of uniting Venezuelans despite their differences, even religious and ideological. Both government and opposition figures sent tweets Friday celebrating the first Venezuelan layman to be beatified.

Gallery: Venezuelan doctor beatified

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Fewer than 300 people, almost entirely priests and nuns, attended the event in the small chapel of a Catholic school on the edge of a mountainous national park north of the capital of Caracas. The ritual was carried live on television.

Hernandez, born Oct. 26, 1864, was convinced that science was one of the main ways to get the country out of misery. He founded two research institutions and several classes at the Central University of Venezuela, the oldest and largest in the country.

"He believed that medicine was a priesthood of human pain," Luis Razetti, a prominent Venezuelan doctor and friend of Hernandez, once said.

Hernandez, who never married, graduated as a doctor in Caracas in 1888. He traveled to Europe to study and then to become a Catholic monk, but his fragile health was affected by Italy's cold and humid weather. He returned to Venezuela to recover and stayed permanently.

On June 29, 1919, he was killed while crossing a street shortly after picking up medicine for an impoverished woman. An estimated 20,000 people participated in his funeral procession, about a quarter of the population of Caracas at the time.

In 1986, the Vatican declared Hernandez "venerable," meaning he led an exemplary Christian life. But to achieve sanctity, teams of doctors, theologians and cardinals must approve two miracles attributed to him.

He was beatified after the church certified a miracle in the case of a girl who completely recovered after being shot in the head.

Beatification is the third and penultimate step toward canonization; Hernandez could become a saint if he is credited with another miracle.

A person wearing a plastic glove due to the COVID-19 pandemic holds up images of the late, Venezuelan Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez to be blessed by a priest with holy water outside the church associated with his remains to celebrate the day of his beatification ceremony in La Candelaria neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 30, 2021. Known as the "doctor of the poor," Hernandez is being beatified by the Catholic church, a step towards sainthood. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
A person wearing a plastic glove due to the COVID-19 pandemic holds up images of the late, Venezuelan Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez to be blessed by a priest with holy water outside the church associated with his remains to celebrate the day of his beatification ceremony in La Candelaria neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 30, 2021. Known as the "doctor of the poor," Hernandez is being beatified by the Catholic church, a step towards sainthood. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
People stand before an altar featuring a statue of the late, Venezuelan Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez on the day of his beatification ceremony by the Catholic church, inside a residence in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 30, 2021. Known as the "doctor of the poor," Hernandez is being beatified, a step towards sainthood. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
People stand before an altar featuring a statue of the late, Venezuelan Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez on the day of his beatification ceremony by the Catholic church, inside a residence in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 30, 2021. Known as the "doctor of the poor," Hernandez is being beatified, a step towards sainthood. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Maria Comedor watches a live television broadcast of the Beatification ceremony for the late, Venezuelan Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez inside her washateria she operates in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 30, 2021. Known as the "doctor of the poor, Hernandez is being Beatified by the Catholic church, a step towards sainthood. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Maria Comedor watches a live television broadcast of the Beatification ceremony for the late, Venezuelan Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez inside her washateria she operates in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 30, 2021. Known as the "doctor of the poor, Hernandez is being Beatified by the Catholic church, a step towards sainthood. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
People gather outside the church associated with the remains of the late, Venezuelan Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez during his beatification ceremony in the La Candelaria neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 30, 2021. Known as the "doctor of the poor," Hernandez is being beatified by the Catholic church, a step towards sainthood. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
People gather outside the church associated with the remains of the late, Venezuelan Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez during his beatification ceremony in the La Candelaria neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 30, 2021. Known as the "doctor of the poor," Hernandez is being beatified by the Catholic church, a step towards sainthood. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
A man gathers with others outside the church associated with the remains of Venezuelan Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez during his beatification ceremony in the La Candelaria neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 30, 2021, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Known as the "doctor of the poor," Hernandez is being beatified by the Catholic church, a step towards sainthood. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
A man gathers with others outside the church associated with the remains of Venezuelan Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez during his beatification ceremony in the La Candelaria neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 30, 2021, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Known as the "doctor of the poor," Hernandez is being beatified by the Catholic church, a step towards sainthood. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Yeni Vasquez raises a portrait of the late, Venezuelan Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez outside the church in La Candelaria after the church bell rang, signaling the start of his Beatification ceremony in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 30, 2021. Known as the "doctor of the poor, Hernandez is being Beatified by the Catholic church, a step towards sainthood. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Yeni Vasquez raises a portrait of the late, Venezuelan Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez outside the church in La Candelaria after the church bell rang, signaling the start of his Beatification ceremony in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 30, 2021. Known as the "doctor of the poor, Hernandez is being Beatified by the Catholic church, a step towards sainthood. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
A man holds images of the late, Venezuelan Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez on the day of his Beatification ceremony outside the church that guards his remains in La Candelaria neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 30, 2021. Known as the "doctor of the poor, Hernandez will be beatified Friday by the Catholic church, a step towards sainthood. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
A man holds images of the late, Venezuelan Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez on the day of his Beatification ceremony outside the church that guards his remains in La Candelaria neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 30, 2021. Known as the "doctor of the poor, Hernandez will be beatified Friday by the Catholic church, a step towards sainthood. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Newspapers and magazines feature the late, Venezuelan Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez on the day of his Beatification ceremony in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 30, 2021. Known as the "doctor of the poor, Hernandez will beatified Friday by the Catholic church, a step towards sainthood. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Newspapers and magazines feature the late, Venezuelan Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez on the day of his Beatification ceremony in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 30, 2021. Known as the "doctor of the poor, Hernandez will beatified Friday by the Catholic church, a step towards sainthood. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
A man wears a mask featuring the image of the late, Venezuelan Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez, on the day of his Beatification ceremony outside the church that guards his remains in La Candelaria area of Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 30, 2021. Known as the "doctor of the poor, Hernandez will be beatified Friday by the Catholic church, a step towards sainthood. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
A man wears a mask featuring the image of the late, Venezuelan Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez, on the day of his Beatification ceremony outside the church that guards his remains in La Candelaria area of Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 30, 2021. Known as the "doctor of the poor, Hernandez will be beatified Friday by the Catholic church, a step towards sainthood. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
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