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'Doctor Of The Poor's' Beatification A Bright, 'Hopeful' Moment Amid Venezuelans' Despair

A Venezuelan woman prays to a mural of Jose Gregorio Hernandez on a street in Caracas this month.
Ariana Cubillos
A Venezuelan woman prays to a mural of Jose Gregorio Hernandez on a street in Caracas this month.

The Vatican on Friday will beatify Dr. José Gregorio Hernández, whose work for the needy is an inspiration to fellow Venezuelans during their humanitarian crisis.

The Venezuelan most Venezuelans consider a saint wasn’t a priest. He was a doctor: José Gregorio Hernández.

The Roman Catholic Church will beatify Hernández Friday — and Venezuelans in South Florida are celebrating the rare moment of bright news from their beleaguered home country.

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Hernández, who died in 1919, was Roman Catholic; but Venezuelans of all religious and political stripes revere him as “the doctor of the poor” for his faithfully tireless and scientifically innovative work helping the needy — in an age before Venezuela had discovered its oil wealth.

The Vatican’s beatification of Hernández is one step away from possibly canonizing him as a saint. Per Catholic tradition, one more miracle attributed to him needs to be verified by the Church.

Venezuelans expats here, who work with the poor — including newly arrived Venezuelan refugees fleeing their country's catastrophic economic collapse — call Hernández their inspiration.

“He epitomizes how a very well trained individual can have the sensitivity towards people in need," says Miami computer software executive Eduardo Santaella, who helps low-income families as a member of his St. Vincent de Paul Conference at Holy Rosary-St. Richard Catholic Church in Palmetto Bay.

"He’s been throughout my entire life a beacon,” he said.

Even non-Catholic Venezuelans here are hailing Hernández’s beatification and especially his charitable example, as Venezuelans back home struggle through one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Even though I am Jewish, I will celebrate his beatification," said Lesly Simon, who heads the Miami-based Venezuelan-American Chamber of Commerce and consults social impact NGOs.

"I honestly think that this is going to be a day of hope for the whole country. And we need that.”

Because of the pandemic, the beatification ceremony for Hernández will take place at a small Catholic school chapel outside Caracas.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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