A dove perches on the glass-topped coffin of Brazilian Cardinal Eugenio Sales during his funeral Tuesday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazi. | Felipe Dana~AP
Updated: August 12, 2012 6:42AM
RIO DE JANEIRO — Rio de Janeiro’s former archbishop provided shelter to thousands of people opposed to the military regimes that once ruled Brazil, Argentina and Chile.
The Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro said Tuesday on its website that Cardinal Eugenio de Araujo Sales died late Monday of a heart attack. He was 91.
He was ordained as a priest in 1943 in the northeastern city of Natal. In 1971, he became archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, a position he held until he retired in 2001.
One year earlier, he told the O Globo newspaper that from 1976-1982 he provided shelter to close to 5,000 Brazilian opponents of Brazil’s 1964-1985 military regime and political refugees fleeing the dictatorships of Argentina and Chile.
He said at the time that those he helped were put up in 80 apartments rented by the archdiocese or received help to travel to other counties, mostly in Europe.
“He was present in all of Brazil’s most important events, especially those involving refugees and the defense of the persecuted,” Rio de Janeiro Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta said in a statement.
Rio de Janeiro state governor Sergio Cabral decreed three days of mourning.
President Dilma Rousseff said he will be remembered for “his concern with social issues which was always closely linked to his ecclesiastical work.”
His body will lie in state at Rio de Janeiro’s cathedral, where he will be entombed Wednesday.