Paraguayan Hero-Priest Dies at 93

Known for Keeping Peace During Civil War

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ASUNCION, Paraguay, DEC. 12, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Known as the priest who managed to turn back militants without any bloodshed during Paraguay's civil war, Monsignor Heriberto Vazquez died at 93, a national hero.

The priest died Dec. 4 in San Jose de los Arroyos. When he was ordained at age 23, he was the youngest priest in Paraguay. His people affectionately referred to him as Pa'i (father in Guarani) Vazquez.

Father Vazquez became famous because during the civil war which the country endured in 1947, he took upon himself the pacification of the opposing families warring among themselves.

During those armed confrontations between fellow citizens, he was pastor of Villa Real de la Concepcion, cradle of the revolution. "When the militiamen came to take the city by violence, the young Father Vazquez, before preaching, went out to them on foot, and turned them back to their homes without any shedding of blood," Pizzurno explained.

During his 70 years of priestly ministry, aside from his duties as pastor, he worked in education. In San Jose people still remember how he rode his bicycle, and with a megaphone, invited people to participate in the Eucharistic celebrations.

"Monsignor Vazquez's works," declared Pizzurno, "are examples of a life worthy of admiration, ultimately because of his high spirit of cooperation and fighting for the needy, a vocation which always identified itself with his priestly beginnings."

And he concluded: "With justified merits he is the spiritual father of the communities of Concepcion, San Jose de los Arroyos and Caacupé, where he left deep footprints of love."