RIO DE JANEIRO — Eugenio de Araujo Sales, a former archbishop of Rio de Janeiro who provided shelter to thousands of people opposed to the military regimes that once ruled Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, has died at age 91.
The Rio Archdiocese said Tuesday on its website that its longtime leader died of a heart attack in his sleep late Monday.
Archbishop Sales was ordained as a priest in 1943. He became archbishop of Rio de Janeiro in 1971, a position he held until 2001 when he retired.
One year earlier, he told the O Globo newspaper that from 1976 to 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 either 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 Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta said.
State governor Sergio Cabral decreed three days of mourning.
President Dilma Rousseff said Archbishop Sales will be remembered for ‘‘his concern with social issues, which was always closely linked to his ecclesiastical work.’’