HAVANA TIMES – Beatification is one of the most popular bureaucratic processes within the Catholic Church, a kind of test that certifies that the “miracle” attributed to a dead person is holy and not diabolic or pure coincidence.
The beatification of Dr. José Gregorio Hernandez (Venezuela 1864-1919) is one of the causes that Nicolas Maduro has pursued since assuming the presidency.
Several days ago he approved 150 million bolivars (the national currency that officially trades at 6.30 to the US dollar) to finish the construction of a sanctuary dedicated to this saint-doctor of the poor.
As one of the local newspapers states: “In the sanctuary, the president pleaded for the health of all Venezuelans who are suffering from illness.”
As one who has been traumatized by the issue of medical attention in this country – since my last diary entry on the subject, I’ve witnessed several other incredible stories –the notion won’t stop rolling around in my head: 150 million bolivars for a sanctuary where those who suffer from some illness can come and request miracles.
In my case, if I’m going to pray, meditate or whatever I might do with respect to spiritual issues, I don’t believe that it’s necessary to enter into any particular building, much less to invest more than twenty million dollars in its construction when it could be invested in something more objectively useful like hospitals, something that this country is known to lack.
It seems totally ironic that a president should be asking a saint (or whatever his category is) for the health of his people.
If one is president and has a certain power to alleviate the bad health of his people, isn’t it better, instead of praying, to act?
Could it be possible that those 150 million bolivars are really destined towards winning votes (municipal elections take place on December 8) on the backs of the people’s religious beliefs?
Religion, more than spirituality, is an outstanding characteristic of this new president of Venezuela.
First was that attempt, luckily a failed one, to mummify the inert body of Chávez and put him on permanent exhibit so that Venezuelans could visit him as a kind of pilgrimage.
Nonetheless, his body was put to rest in a mausoleum in the Mountain Army Headquarters, with the new president’s office right next door, so he can receive the encouragement and spiritual guidance of his “Father.”
During the electoral campaign for president, the deification of ex-President Chávez was brought up at every turn. “We declare ourselves apostles of Hugo Chávez, the apostles of Commander Chávez’s cause. We will guard his legacy by caring for our people.”
If we should remove the name of “Chávez” from these words of Maduro, and replace it with that of “Jesus”, or “Christ”, the phrase would sound more harmonic. But very soon afterwards came “Eternal Commander”, followed by Supreme Leader, and even Christ the Redeemer of the Poor of America.
President, Nicolás Maduro assured us at one point that if someone had interceded in heaven for the nomination of a Latin American Pope, it had surely been Chávez. And later, the story of the “little bird” arose, claiming that the figure of Chávez appeared to the new president in the form of a bird (like the holy spirit).
This provoked a lot of laughter and ridicule, but given the religiosity of a large part of the Venezuelan public, I don’t believe that the subliminal message has passed unnoticed.
It wasn’t necessary to intercede with the Vatican in order to convert Chávez into a kind of spiritual benefactor –and beyond that, into the Great Spiritual Guide, the Protector God.
From that time on, there isn’t a speech given by Maduro in which he doesn’t make reference to God or to Chávez in Heaven: his words at times resemble more those of a Pastor than those of a president of an “almost socialist” republic.
Each one of his decisions as president is framed by the phrases: “that was the desire of our Commander”, “that was an idea of Chávez”, “the Supreme Commander would be Proud”.
Aren’t all religions guided by Faith and blind obedience?
Who can reason or discuss issues with someone who is no longer alive?
For the upcoming municipal elections Maduro has said: “I will declare the 8th of December the Day of Loyalty to the legacy of Hugo Chávez and of Love for the Fatherland. Day of Loyalty and Love!”
An electoral process to demonstrate Faith, but not to analyze and reach a conclusion regarding the best candidates to select.