By Felicia Osorio
The blessed Venezuelan José Gregorio Hernández, a doctor and scientist who dedicated his life to serving the most needy, could be closer to being declared a saint by the Catholic Church. This is what the Archdiocese of Caracas has suggested, which has sent a new alleged miracle attributed to his intercession to Rome. However, behind this process there is a story that involves a controversial Venezuelan businessman, accused of corruption and money laundering, who would have financed and promoted the ecclesiastical investigation of his own healing.
The miracle of Gonzalo Morales Divo?
According to sources close to the case, the Venezuelan businessman Gonzalo Morales Divo, residing in Miami, would be the person who would have received the alleged miracle of the blessed José Gregorio Hernández. Morales is known for his businesses in South Florida, where he owns a series of digital media, among which would be Miami Diario; and for his romances with famous Venezuelan women, such as actress Fabiola Colmenares or model Shannon de Lima, current partner of Morales and ex-wife of singer Marc Anthony. In addition to models, Morales often appears in public in the United States with singers and actors of Latin origin.
The sources relate that Morales suffered a stroke (CVA) in the middle of one of his usual parties, which had lasted for several days, where it is presumed that in addition to drinking alcohol, he could have consumed some hallucinogenic substance. After the CVA, Morales was taken to a prestigious hospital in Florida, where the doctors decided to induce him into a coma to prevent his situation from worsening and that he suffered irreversible damage or even death.
Morales remained in a coma for about three weeks, while his relatives and friends feared for his life and waited for his recovery. When he woke up from the coma, Morales had difficulty speaking. However, a few months later, he managed to recover completely, thanks to several sessions of physiotherapy and physical rehabilitation, regaining speech and mobility. Morales’ healing has been attributed to the miraculous intervention of the blessed José Gregorio Hernández, of whom it is assured he was not devout.
The shadows of the businessman
Meanwhile, the businessman Gonzalo Morales Divo continues to be the subject of controversy and scandal for his commercial, personal activities and his ties with characters from Venezuelan politics and show business.
In 2020, Morales pleaded guilty to conspiring with his associate, José Manuel González Testino, to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, in a case that involved Pdvsa. It is known that Morales collaborates with the justice of the United States and his case was sealed from the beginning of the process by decision of the court. The judicial case in the United States against Morales has to do with corruption, bribery and money laundering. For the same case of Morales, the businessman José Manuel González Testino was accused, who murdered his three-year-old son in Miami and then committed suicide at the beginning of March 2023, after in 2019 González Testino pleaded guilty to bribery and reached a collaboration agreement with the US justice.
Most of the defendants in the case against Morales Divo in the United States have pleaded guilty and gone to jail. One of the few who has escaped justice, until now, supposedly thanks to plea bargains, has been Morales Divo, who in 2020, Alek Boyd, a Venezuelan anti-corruption investigator based in London, denounced for having threatened him by phone.
Morales has also been accused of having close ties and financing well-known Venezuelan journalists based in Miami or New York, as well as having allegedly also had on his payroll, among other people, former commissioners of Juan Guaidó’s “interim government”.
Morales would have also been a partner of VPItv, a television channel that some link to the Venezuelan party Voluntad Popular, which is broadcast over the Internet via streaming. However, it is said that Morales would have lost his stake in VPItv, after failing to honor certain economic commitments that he had to fulfill with his partners.
The alleged financing of the process
But the most surprising thing is that Morales would have been the main promoter and sponsor of the process for his case to be presented at the Vatican as the second miracle necessary for the canonization of José Gregorio Hernández. According to the sources, Morales would have paid out of his own pocket the expenses of the members of the ecclesiastical tribunal in charge of certifying his healing, including per diem, accommodation and others.
It is not clear whether this way of proceeding is within the parameters that the Catholic Church allows, and whether it is acceptable that it is an individual, as in this case, who promotes and sponsors the trips of the representatives of the Archdiocese of Caracas to the Archdiocese of Miami to evaluate the alleged miracle, as well as the trips to Rome to present the case at the Holy See.
The Archdiocese of Caracas confirmed in June 2022 the sending to Rome of the new alleged miracle of the Venezuelan doctor. The case was registered in the city of Miami, United States and few details have been offered publicly. The ecclesiastical tribunal in charge of certifying the healing has said that the details of the person who received the alleged miracle cannot be disclosed “until after the Holy See makes a decision”.
Toy For Boys
Gonzalo Morales Divo is one of the characters that can be seen in a video that dates from 2017 next to the singer Nicky Jam, ex-partner of the Venezuelan model Aleska Génesis. The video was recorded at Toy For Boys, the luxury goods boutique in Miami belonging to Danilo Diazgranados Salvatierra, son of the controversial Venezuelan financial broker Danilo Diazgranados Manglano and now husband of Michelle Salas, the daughter of singer Luis Miguel.
The meeting, in which Nicky Jam is seen hugging Gonzalo Morales Divo, was due to the celebration of the cover party of issue number 12 of Toy For Boys Magazine in which Nicky Jam appeared. On social networks, on December 9, 2017, a legend of the celebration indicated: “Following the true tradition of Toys for Boys, we celebrated the cover party of issue 12 of @nickyjampr along with @bomberofficial with a private dinner hosted by @louisroederer_ #cristal and moved on to a cocktail for a larger group of guests at @cantinala20. Members of the Toys for Boys family who have recently appeared in the magazine attended”.
The ecclesiastical investigation
Blessed José Gregorio Hernández, a Venezuelan doctor who dedicated his life to serving the poor and who was beatified on April 30, 2021 by Pope Francis, could be close to reaching sainthood thanks to the miracle that occurred in Miami.
The Archdiocese of Miami, under the direction of Archbishop Thomas Wenski, initiated an exhaustive investigation into this alleged miracle, which involved 16 witnesses, including doctors, experts and objective witnesses. The process was carried out in two languages, English and Spanish, and an ecclesiastical tribunal was formed, composed of an episcopal delegate, a promoter of Justice, a medical expert and three notaries. This is the first time that such an investigation has been carried out in the Archdiocese of Miami.
The ecclesiastical tribunal collected all the relevant information about the case of Gonzalo Morales, from his medical diagnosis to his clinical evolution, passing through the testimonies of those who prayed for his healing to Blessed José Gregorio Hernández. The testimony of Gonzalo Morales himself was also obtained, who was not a devotee of the blessed Venezuelan but who experienced a spiritual transformation after his cure. According to Father Largaespada, who requested a relic of the blessed to expose it in various archdiocesan churches, “great was the Lord with him”.
The archdiocesan investigation concluded on June 17, 2022, with a ceremony at the archdiocesan Pastoral Center, where the investigative documents were presented in three authentic copies of 648 pages each. These documents were sealed and signed by Father Rivero, episcopal delegate and delegated judge for this case; and by Father Rafael León, promoter of Justice and priest of the diocese of Raleigh, in North Carolina. The original record was kept in the archive of the Archdiocese of Miami and the other two copies were sent to Rome for review.
The Roman phase
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints of the Vatican is in charge of evaluating the results of the archdiocesan investigation and verifying if it is indeed a miracle attributable to the intercession of Blessed José Gregorio Hernández. To do this, it consults with its own experts and doctors, who analyze the case from a scientific and theological perspective.
Father Gerardino Barrachini, vice-postulator for the canonization of José Gregorio Hernández and a native of Venezuela, explained in 2022 that this phase could take a year or more, depending on the divine will. However, the Vatican authorities revealed that they requested to expedite the process to canonize the blessed Venezuelan.
Father Teodoro Ricardo Pirela Vegas was in charge of taking the records to Rome, where they were delivered on June 20, 2022 by Cardinal Baltazar Porras, bishop of Caracas; Father Barrachini and Father Pirela. Cardinal Porras is the only one authorized to open the cause of holiness of Blessed José Gregorio Hernández, who lived between the years 1864 and 1919 and died run over by a car.
The beatification and canonization
Blessed José Gregorio Hernández was beatified in Caracas by the apostolic nuncio Aldo Giordano, representing Pope Francis, on April 30, 2021. This ceremony was held more than a century after his death and after he was credited with hundreds of miracles.
For Blessed José Gregorio Hernández to be canonized, that is, declared a saint by the Catholic Church, the Vatican needs to recognize a second miracle. This could be the case of Gonzalo Morales, the Miami businessman who survived a stroke and an induced coma. If the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints approves this miracle, only the Pope Francis would have to ratify it and convene a canonization ceremony.
If so, Blessed José Gregorio Hernández would be the first Venezuelan male saint and the first lay doctor to be canonized. In addition, his miracle in Miami would be the first confirmed in the emblematic city of southern Florida.
The wait for good news
Gerardino Barracchini, vice-postulator of the cause of Blessed José Gregorio Hernández, indicated that although the process is developing normally, “we have to wait” for all the steps to be completed.
“It gives us hope. We are still in the medical verification part and we hope to have something to report to the country by the end of the year on how the process of the second miracle is going. We have to keep praying,” he said recently.
Likewise, the Archdiocese of Caracas commented that the Medical Commission of the Holy See is evaluating the alleged miracle that occurred in Miami to a Venezuelan, “which, if inexplicable to science, would be a very important step for the full sanctity of Blessed José Gregorio Hernández”.