Human Interest

Brazil’s “bishop of the people” dead at 92

Sao Paulo, Aug 8 (efe-epa).- Spanish-born retired Bishop Pere Casaldaliga, a liberation theology exponent and prominent advocate for the rights of Brazil’s indigenous people, died Saturday at a hospital in Sao Paulo state, his brethren in the Roman Catholic Claretian order said. He was 92.

Casaldaliga, diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2012, was admitted to the hospital in the town of Batatais suffering from pneumonia.

The prelate passed away at 9.40 am, Ronaldo Mazula, a Claretian missionary who arranged for Casaldaliga’s stay in Batatais, told Efe.

The Claretian Congregation said that it planned a vigil for Casaldaliga on Saturday in Batatais, to be followed next week by vigils in the central-western state of Mato Grosso, where the bishop worked for decades.

A service will take place Monday in Ribeirao Cascalheira and the final vigil is to take place in Sao Felix de Araguaia before Casaldaliga is laid to rest there.

The Claretians in Batatais said they will conduct a Mass in Casaldaliga’s honor on Sunday.

Casaldaliga grew up on his family’s cattle ranch in the northeastern region of Catalonia and was ordained a priest in Barcelona in 1952, when Spain was ruled by dictator Francisco Franco.

He went to Brazil as a missionary in 1968 and embraced liberation theology, a strain of Catholic thought that emerged in Latin America and is focused on freeing people from injustice and oppression.

In line with those beliefs, Casaldaliga became a defender of poor and indigenous people and his activism on their behalf sometimes brought him into conflict with powerful interests.

Even after he was named bishop of Sao Felix de Araguaia in 1971, Casaldaliga received death threats for, among other reasons, supporting the Xavante indigenous community against land invaders.

In 1976, a priest standing next to Casaldaliga at a protest was killed.

Though he retired as bishop in 2005, Casaldaliga continued to live in Sao Felix and served for a time as a parish priest under his successor.

Casaldaliga’s legacy includes two of important Catholic institutions in Brazil, the Pastoral Commission of the Earth and the Indigenous Missionary Council, both of which he helped found.

The prelate was also known for his literary output, including several volumes of poems with artwork by fellow Claretian missionary Cerezo Barredo.

Mazula proudly displayed one of those books, “Murais da Libertaçao” (Murals of Liberation), during a conversation this week with Efe in Batatais.

“This beautiful work with the illustrations of Cerezo and Casaldaliga’s poetry is a great testament to service to the people and service to humanity,” Mazula said. EFE atc/dr

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