DAILY CATHOLIC    TUESDAY     August 31, 1999     vol. 10, no. 164

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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Revelations of His Friend Cardinal Moreira Neves as Pope recalls Camara's Help in Foundation of CELAM

        RECIFE, AUG. 30 (ZENIT) - Last Saturday thousands of people, among them the Brazilian Vice President Marco Maciel, attended the funeral of Helder Camara, Archbishop emeritus of Olinda and Recife. The ceremony took place in Recife's modest "Church of the Frontiers" in northern Brazil, where "the bishop of the poor" lived the last 31 years of his life and where he died, at the age of 90, during the night between August 28th and 29th.

        The remains of Helder Camara now lie in the cemetery of the city of Olinda, next to the tomb of his auxiliary bishop and great friend, José Lamartine.

        Born in Fortaleza on February 7, 1909 (the eleventh child of a family of 13, of whom only 8 survived), Helder entered the seminary at age 14 and was ordained at 22. He started to assume a relevant role in the Church in 1952, when he was named auxiliary bishop of Rio de Janeiro. In 1964, as Brazil began a long period of military dictatorship that lasted until 1985, Bishop Cámara was named Archbishop of Olinda and Recife. In the new political situation of Brazil, the Prelate -- very involved in social questions -- placed special emphasis on the defense of human rights, solidarity with the most needy, and the creation of movements promoting democracy and non-violence.

        Archbishop Cámara participated in the sessions of Vatican II, and collaborated in the creation of the national Conference of Brazilian Bishops, of which he was the first secretary. He was also an active promoter of CELAM (Latin American Bishops' Council) and participated as a member of the Brazilian delegation in the Conferences of Medellín (1968) and Puebla (1979).

        According to the norms of Canon Law he presented his resignation as Archbishop of Olinda and Recife in 1985, at age 75. More than 350 books about the personality and work of Archbishop Cámara have been published.

    Personal Memoirs

        Brazilian Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, wished to convey a personal remembrance about the figure of this bishop in an interview with Vatican Radio. "I met him when, as a Domincan, I was transferred from the convent of San Paulo to that of Río de Janeiro, in 1954. He was auxiliary Bishop and as Secretary General was preparing the 36th International Eucharistic Congress. He called me to ask my collaboration in a simple part of the preparation of the Congress. He was already a very famous man, besides being at that moment the Secretary General of the national Conference of Brazilian Bishops, one of the first to be created. Afterwards, during the following fourteen years that I was in Río, I had constant contact with him."

        In particular, Cardinal Moreira Neves remembers "his immense capacity to work with the poor, without neglecting any sector of society. When it was necessary to create contacts with Institutions, persons, or the Government itself, he did so for the sake of the poor. I also remember very personal encounters in the free moments during meetings of the Episcopal Conference, in which he recounted his experiences as well as his infancy and his teenage years in the seminary. I have to admit that Archbishop Helder has had a great influence in the defense of human rights, in the defense of the poor, in order to give them a worthy existence.

    News Agency in his Honor

        The National Conference of Brazilian Bishops (CNBB) has announced that, to honor his memory, it will create a Press Agency to spread "the voice of the people", with special attention paid to the agricultural conflicts of Brazil. ZS99083003

    Papal Condolences

        From his summer residence at Castel Gondolfo, Pope John Paul II expressed his condolences today on the death of Helder Camara, Archbishop emeritus of Olinda and Recife, Brazil, in a telegram signed by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State.

        The text of the message reiterates the Holy Father's sorrow upon receiving the news of Archbishop Camara's death: "I offer my prayers for this zealous pastor who, among his many pastoral endeavors, helped to create the Latin American Bishops' Council (CELAM) and the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops, and who served as its secretary for many years."

        The Pope also extended his condolences to all those who were close to the Archbishop, especially the local church community and members of his family.

        Archbishop Camara, who was 90 years old, died in Recife on Friday night at his home. His body was mourned in Recife's "Church of the Frontiers" and he was buried on Saturday at the Cathedral da Se in Olinda. ZE99083007

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.

August 31, 1999       volume 10, no. 164


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