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VATICAN (ChurchMilitant.com) - Hundreds of Brazilian bishops are asking Pope Francis to proclaim a Marxist priest who died in an ambush in 1985 as "patron saint" of the Amazon Synod.
Father Ezechiele Ramin, an Italian Comboni missionary, was killed while planning to intervene in the invasion at the Catuva plantation accompanied by militants of the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (Landless Rural Workers Movement, or MST).
Born in 1953, Fr. Ramin displayed a passionate "social conscience" from his youth, seeking to fight poverty and oppression by pulling down social and political structures generating inequalities — a central theme of liberation theology.
The 16-year-old joined the Florentine branch of Mani Tese ("Open Hands"), an Italian social justice organization, and from then developed a strong propensity toward Marxism, according to his biographer, Fr. Rafael Vigolo (Father Ezequiel Ramin: Testemunha de um amor sem limites).
Father Ramin was the main contributor to the Political Document published in April 1972 by Mani Tese. The document is intended to "clarify our political commitment" and uses tools of marxian dialectical materialism to generate a "political and social strategy" that will result in a "mobilizing and inspiring utopia."
It seeks to create "youth groups of revolutionary commitment, from non-governmental to student movements," influenced by "Karl Marx and Mao."
"Marxism aims first of all at the structures, and then constructs its discourse through the development of a historical force that is expressed in reality," it notes, proposing simultaneously a revolution in structures and consciences.
A chapter titled "No to Capitalism and Imperialism" is dedicated to the defense of an "alternative society." It calls for a "class choice" within an "anti-capitalist strategy."
The experience of "Open Hands" was so intense for him that he continued it in Florence in 1973–74, while he was carrying out a trial period with the Comboni missionaries.
Father Ramin joined the Comboni Fathers, who have been active in promoting liberation theology in Latin America. After a period in the United States, Portugal and Brazil, he was sent to Cacoal mission in the Amazonian state of Rondônia, where he was killed.
The priest had no problem embracing the MST even though it was explicit about its Marxist ideology, observe critics.
"In the political formation of the MST we study Marx, Lenin, Gramsci. … We are inspired by the school of historical Marxists," says João Pedro Stédile, national coordinator of the movement, adding, "Our goal is to establish socialism, defeat the bourgeoisie, control the state. We make the class struggle, and the earth will tremble!"
Father Ramin's marxist training also led him to engage in the indigenist struggle as a member of the Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT), the body of the Brazilian Bishops' Conference dedicated to rural problems, which had adopted Marxism and liberation theology.
The final document of the second National Assembly of the CPT in 1976 reads: "Comrades! We have decided to support the workers' struggles! Here is our peasant Easter: the struggle to free the earth from the greed of the rich.Go against all the fences!"
Conservative Brazilian Catholics have criticized the proposal to make Fr. Ramin patron saint of the Amazon Synod, as "such a move would be interpreted as the canonization of Marxism."
It would mean giving "the pontifical seal to the subversive action of the CPT and the MST, and would be seen as the definitive consecration of Marxist Liberation Theology," say critics. "In short, it would be interpreted as the pontifical approval of the socialist revolution in Latin America and, consequently, throughout the world."
The Church has condemned both Marxism and liberation theology in a number of documents as incompatible with Catholic teaching.
The MST Landless Movement is organized in 24 states in the five regions of the country. In all, about 350,000 families have conquered the land through organizing the struggle and organization of rural workers. MST believes that conquering land is the first step towards Agrarian Reform.
Two hundred bishops signed the proposal to begin the sainthood process for Fr. Ramin on the eve of the Amazonian Synod.