The longest serving cardinal in the Catholic Church was buried yesterday in Rio de Janeiro. Cardinal Eugenio Sales died last Monday and his requiem mass took place yesterday at Rio's Cathedral of Saint Sebastian. During the ceremony a dove landed on the casket and stayed there for almost an hour.
Cardinal Sales was made cardinal in the Consistory of April 28, 1969, by Paul VI. Out of the 35 men who were created cardinals in that consistory, Cardinal Sales was the last survivor. The late Canadian Cardinal George Bernard Flahiff was part of that group of cardinals.
Cardinal Sales served the Archdiocese of Rio for 30 years and was s one of the most popular figures of the Brazilian Church. He was very important during the military dictatorship when he stood up for the protection of political prisoners.
This Tuesday when the casket with his body was being carried into the cathedral by the honor guard, a Red Cross staff member released a dove as a signal of peace and God's presence. Instead of flying away, the dove landed on the Cardinal’s casket and stayed there all the way to the cathedral and even during part of the celebration. When the dove left cardinal’s casket, it stayed in the cathedral for the rest of the service.
The image of the white dove on top of the coffin was an emotional sight for all who were watching, because Cardinal Sales was seen as an example of dedication to the Church. Some of his close friends say before meeting the pope he would always go to a chapel and pray for good fruits to come out of the meeting.
There are moments where we think maybe the hand of God is present and this moment where we could see the dove, symbol of peace and the Holy Spirit, upon the coffin of Cardinal Eugenio Sales who was an example of dedication and holiness is one of those moments. This image made many think God wanted show us that a holy man died and we should look to him as a model of service and dedication.