CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan forensic experts on Monday exhumed the remains of Jose Gregorio Hernandez, whose beatification decree was signed in June by Pope Francis, as part of Roman Catholic protocols to verify the condition of the body and guarantee its preservation.
The Vatican in June announced the beatification of Hernandez, a doctor known for treating the poor during the Spanish flu pandemic a century ago. The decree moves him a step closer to sainthood.
His remains were exhumed in a ceremony at a church in Caracas, to “guarantee the prolonged preservation of his body,” the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference said in a statement.
The exhumation will collect relics including skeletal remains and clothing, which will be distributed to dioceses in Venezuela, the Holy See and to sanctuaries created in other countries in honor of Hernandez.
Venezuelan Cardinal Baltazar Porras asked that the beatification “be for us the path of reconciliation,” in a ceremony before a small group of parishioners that was broadcast on state television.
Hernandez was born in the Andean state of Trujillo in 1864 and was known as the ‘doctor of the poor’ for visiting the sick in Caracas during the Spanish flu pandemic.
He died in 1919 after being hit by a car.
Beatification by the Roman Catholic Church requires linking the prospective saint to a miracle, which usually takes the form of a healing it deems medically inexplicable.
The church cited Yaxury Solorzano, a girl who in 2017 defied doctors’ predictions that she would either die or be unable to walk and speak after being shot in the head following an attempted robbery. She was 10 years old at the time.
It said Solorzano’s mother had prayed to Hernandez to save the life of her daughter, who walked out of the hospital several weeks later after fully recovering from her injuries.
Reporting by Vivian Sequera, writing by Brian Ellsworth, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien