April 27, 2000
volume 11, no. 82
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Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.


    VATICAN ( -- Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican Secretary of State, is in Brazil for celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the evangelization of that South American country.

    On April 26, Cardinal Sodano presided at ceremonies in Coroa Vermelha, near the spot where the first Mass was celebrated in Brazil on April 26, 1500. As the cardinal celebrated Mass, behind the altar was a 10-foot cross, erected on the site where the first cross was planted on Brazilian soil by the Franciscan missionary Henrique de Coimbra. An estimated 200,000 people participated in the services, despite a steady rainfall.

    In his homily, Cardinal Sodano said that today's Brazilians "owe much to the work of missionaries." While he conceded that some missionaries had been guilty of "disfiguring the face of Christ," the cardinal pointed out that the Church had also firmly opposed slavery, and protected the dignity of the indigenous tribes in Brazil.

    The celebration of the 500 years of Christian civilization was a major event in the public life of Brazil. April 26 was declared a national holiday, and President Marco Maciel attended the celebrations. However, some Indian leaders protested the events; a spokesman for the Matalaue tribe said that the holiday pointed toward "500 years of suffering, massacres, and devastation" that followed the Christian "invasion" of the land.

    Minutes before the Mass started, the president of the Brazilian Episcopate, Bishop Jayme Chemello, read a statement publicly requesting forgiveness from Indians and Afro-Brazilians. "In this Eucharist in which we remember the suffering, the massacres, the slavery of our black and Indian brothers and sisters; To the Indians and to all those taken from Africa as slaves, we do not cease to ask for forgiveness," the statement said.

    After the bishop finished his statement, a Matalaue native read a highly critical statement denouncing "500 years of suffering, massacre, devastation." After his statement, he embraced Bishop Chemello, symbolizing forgiveness.

    At the end of the Mass, Bishop Jose de Santana, of Eunapolis -- the diocese in which the Mass was held -- erected an image of Our Lady of Aparecida, Patroness of Brazil, for a brief time of prayer. At noon, the bells of all Catholic Churches in Brazil rang to celebrate the 500 years of evangelization.


April 27, 2000
volume 11, no. 83

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