Cardinal Eugenio de Araujo Sales, who was Brazil's Catholic primate for three decades, died of a heart attack, the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro said Tuesday. He was 91.
Sales will lie in state at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Sao Sebastiao prior to his funeral, set for Wednesday afternoon, the archdiocese said in a statement.
Ordained in 1943, Sales was archbishop of Rio from March 1971 to July 2001, when he retired for health reasons.
Though known in his later years as a staunch traditionalist on matters of doctrine, Sales was dubbed the "red bishop" for his human rights activism during Brazil's 1964-1985 military regime.
He helped found peasants unions and created dedicated ministries for prison inmates, young people and residents of the shantytowns that ring Rio de Janeiro.
Sales revealed 12 years ago that he used the resources of the archdiocese to aid some 5,000 persecuted South American dissidents between the years 1976 and 1982, when the respective juntas then ruling Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay collaborated in the eradication of political opponents.
Many of those dissidents were lodged in scores of apartments rented by the archdiocese, while others were helped to escape to Europe, Sales said.
The cardinal was the chief organizer of Pope John Paul II's visits to Brazil in 1980 and 1997. EFE