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News > Venezuela

The Venezuelan "Poor People's Doctor" to Become a New Saint

  • He treated the poor for free and bought them medicine with his own money.

    He treated the poor for free and bought them medicine with his own money. | Photo: AFP

Published 19 June 2020

José Gregorio Hernández turned into an iconic figure during his life and started to be worshipped by the people soon after his death.

José Gregorio Hernández, a physician known as the "Poor People's Doctor," and revered by his people as a holy figure, is now closer to becoming a new saint of Catholicism and the first Venezuelan in history to hold such status. This after Pope Francis signed the beatification on Friday.


Pope Francis Beatifies Venezuela's Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez

On June 18, after a unanimous vote in a plenary of Cardinals held in Rome, the beatification of the iconic doctor was approved.

Beatification is a recognition accorded by the Catholic Church of a dead person's entrance into heaven and capacity to intercede on behalf of individuals to pray in or his name in a particular group or region. It is also the last step to canonization, by which a person finally enters to sainthood.

The Venezuelan doctor turned into an iconic figure during his life and started to be worshipped by the people soon after his death. Hence, the country's catholic authorities submitted the petition to the Vatican for José Gregorio to become saint back in 1949.

However, for Venezuelans, he is already a saint. He treated the poor for free and bought them medicine with his own money.

In the country, he is a symbol of kindness, humanity, and he has been worshipped as a saint that cures irreversible diseases. It is reported that there have been over 40 events that people have called miracles after praying to Jose Gregorio in recent years.

However, on April 27, 2020, the Vatican recognized the miracle about Yaxury Solárzano, a 10-year-old girl who received a bullet in her right ear in 2017. The recognition was a stepping stone towards beatification.

"President Nicolás Maduro celebrated the approval of beatification to José Gregorio Hernández"

The medical case did not offer an optimistic prognosis since, if she survived, the surgical intervention implied the removal of a part of her crane, which would bring about motor and linguistic consequences.

While the girl was being operated, her mother prayed to José Gregorio for the sake of her child, and, as she did, she said she had felt a hand over her shoulder and a voice that said: "Stay calm, everything will be alright."

The child reacted remarkably well post-operatory and left the hospital with her faculties intact.

"The miracle starts to be evident when, a week after Yaxury's operation, the child was walking and smiling, with no complications," said Alexander Krinitzky, the neurologist that operated the girl.

Before the beatification, the Vatican had declared him "Servant of God" in 1972, and on January 15, 1986, Pope John Paul II elevated him to the category of "Venerable."

The birth home of José Gregorio Hernández in Inostú, Trujillo, it has become a sanctuary visited by hundreds of people each week, as well as his church in La Pastora.

His remains are kept in the Church of Our Lady of Candelaria, in the heart of the capital city of Caracas, as thousands of pilgrims go there each week.

The Venezuelan government also has embraced the widespread adoration for the doctor. In 2008, Commander Hugo Chávez created a unique social program addressed to people with disabilities all across the nation, which he named Mission Dr. José Gregorio Hernández.

Likewise, in 2013, President Nicolás Maduro asked Pope Francis to grant José Gregorio the category of a saint. During his trip to the Vatican, the Venezuelan leader gave the Pope an image of the physician. "We hope for him to be canonized. He is the saint of the poor," Maduro said to Francis.

 José Gregorio not only held several academic achievements that granted him the respect of his fellows, but he was also a pioneer.

The physician, born in Trujillo state, Western Venezuela, on October 26, 1864, was the first to introduce the use of the microscope to the country, and he founded the first bacteriology's university chair in Latin America. He was among the 35 founders of the National Medicine Academy of the country.

The doctor also put together teams for the laboratory of Experimental Physiology in Caracas and gathered several materials for brand new medical courses at the Central University of Venezuela, where he taught.

Twice in his life, he tried to adopt a religious life. In 1908 and 1913, respectively, he traveled to Italy to learn and enter the monastery. However, due to lung disease, he had to return to Venezuela.

José Gregorio Hernández died on June 1919, at 54, when he was heading to take care of a patient, and a car hit him near La Pastora Parroquia in Venezuela's capital.

For him to be officially declared a catholic saint, only a second verified posthumous miracle is required after his beatification today.


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