CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelans on Friday celebrated the beatification of Jose Gregorio Hernandez, a medic who became known as the "doctor of the poor" while treating the ill during the Spanish flu pandemic in the early 20th century.
Pope Francis in 2020 began the process of his beatification, which precedes sainthood in the Roman Catholic tradition.
That process was completed on Friday in a Caracas ceremony led by papal nuncio Aldo Giordano and other Venezuelan church leaders.
Giordano called for Hernandez's intervention to help the South American nation obtain coronavirus vaccines for its inoculation campaign, which has been mired in partisan differences.
"May the blessed Jose Gregorio intercede so that access to vaccines can be achieved together, without divisions," Giordano said. "(Hernandez) is able to unite all his compatriots, independent of their social, political and economic differences."
Pope Francis, the first Latin American pontiff, in a video released on Thursday said he hoped the beatification would foment solidarity among Venezuelans, who for decades have been bitterly divided by politics.
Hernandez, the fourth Venezuelan to be beatified, was born in the Andean state of Trujillo in 1864. He died in 1919 after being hit by a car in Caracas, and his devotees spent decades petitioning the Vatican to put him on the path to sainthood.
In 2017, the church attributed a miracle to Hernandez for saving the life of a young girl, Yaxury Solorzano, who was shot in the head during a robbery attempt.
Doctors had said Solorzano would be disabled if they managed to save her life, but she recovered and was able to walk just weeks after leaving the hospital, according to church records.
Solorzano's mother had prayed to Hernandez for her daughter's salvation. Both mother and daughter were present for Friday's ceremony.
High ranking government officials including Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, and parliament chief Jorge Rodriguez were present for the ceremony.
(Reporting by Mayela Armas, Writing by Brian Ellsworth, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)