Guatemalan Physician Ernesto Cofiño Declared ‘Venerable’

The postulator of the cause shared that the layman always stood out for his generosity of life and that he was a good husband and father in addition to a good doctor.

Dr. Ernesto Cofiño was a pediatrician in Guatemala and father of five.
Dr. Ernesto Cofiño was a pediatrician in Guatemala and father of five. (photo: Courtesy of Opus Dei)

With the authorization of Pope Francis, the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints promulgated on Dec. 14 decrees relating to 11 causes for canonization, among them that of Guatemalan physician Ernesto Cofiño, declared “Venerable” for heroically living Christian virtues.

The prelate of Opus Dei, Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz, said in a statement: “We thank God for this happy news and we thank the Holy Father for wanting to make this decision.”

“Ernesto responded to God’s grace and his vocation by living Christian virtues in his family, in the performance of his profession as a doctor, in generous service to those most in need: the sick, the poor, orphans. Together with his wife, Clemencia, he transformed his house — blessed with five children — into a bright and cheerful home,” the priest noted.

Father Santiago Callejo, a priest and the postulator of the cause for Cofiño, shared that the layman always stood out for his generosity of life and that he was a good husband and father in addition to always trying to be a better doctor. According to Callejo, the new “Venerable” considered his work as a way to serve others, “to change the piece of the world that God had entrusted to him.”

Cofiño “shows us that work and family are the places where we are called to act as Jesus would. He dedicated himself with all his heart to the service of others. He was concerned about cultivating his own Christian experience and stimulating the spiritual life of those who became close him,” the postulator said, as quoted in the statement shared by Opus Dei.

Father Callejo said Cofiño “will be a very close-to-home inspiration for the Church in Guatemala” and noted that the doctor’s reputation for holiness has spread rapidly in all regions of the country, from where numerous stories related to him come.

The promulgation of decrees of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints also announced on Dec. 14 the approval of the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Francesca Lacellotti, a mother who died in 2008.

Also on the list is the Venerable Mexican priest Moisés Lira Serafín, founder of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Charity of Mary Immaculate. The miracle attributed to his intercession was approved, which will allow him to be elevated to the dignity of “Blessed.” A miracle through the intercession of the Ana de Jesús, a discalced Carmelite nun who died in 1621, was also approved.

Cofiño was born in Guatemala City on June 5, 1899. In 1919, he began studying medicine at Sorbonne University in France. In 1933, he married Clemencia Samayoa, with whom he had five children: Ernesto, Clotilde, Clemencia, Sofía, Roberto and José Luis.

He specialized in pediatrics, and, according to Opus Dei, he not only limited himself to solving the physical ailments of patients but also took on the problems of children and families. “Moved by his faith and a desire for solidarity,” he created and became involved in many initiatives for life, always for the benefit of expectant mothers, orphans and street children.

In 1956, he joined Opus Dei and intensified his relationship with God through daily Mass and Communion, frequent confession, prayer, sacrifices in ordinary life, and other practices of Christian life. He cultivated his personal relationships much more with friends and acquaintances, “communicating his joy and his faith” wherever he went.

Throughout his life “he strove to balance his family life and his professional work,” the prelature noted. The newly declared venerable used to say: “Profession and life are inseparable: Along with medical-professional and social activities, there is home life.”

Regarding his wife, Colfiño stated that she was “his encouragement in difficult times, encouragement in failures; joy in the home that five children came to fill.” Clemencia died in 1963; and following her death, Colfiño dedicated himself even more to his children, without ever neglecting his professional duties.

The pediatrician died on Oct. 17, 1991, in Guatemala City. He was diagnosed with cancer in 1981, which came back in June 1991. Through it all, he sought the company and consolation of God.

In 2000, the diocesan process on his life, virtues and reputation for holiness was opened, during which 45 witnesses were interviewed during 58 sessions. In 2002, the Vatican granted the decree of legal validity of the diocesan process, and the relator for its cause was appointed.

In 2021, the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints received the 771-page document about his life and the diocesan process; in 2022, the Vatican gave a positive answer to the question about the heroic exercise of virtues by the “Servant of God.”

A year later, the ordinary session of the cardinals and bishops that make up the dicastery ruled in favor of the heroic virtues of Ernesto Cofiño. Finally, on Dec. 14, Pope Francis authorized the Dicastery of the Causes of Saints to promulgate the decree of heroic virtues of the now-Venerable Ernesto Cofiño.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.