Brazilian Government Voices Concerns With Upcoming Pan-Amazonian Synod

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by Juliana Freitag  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  February 15, 2019   

Government is worried Church synod could be hijacked by 'left-wing agenda'

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Brazilian newspaper O Estado de São Paulo (or "Estadão") revealed last Sunday the Brazilian government is highly concerned about "opposition" from the Catholic Church in Brazil, especially in light of the much-anticipated Pan-Amazonian Synod due to take place this year. The article disclosed details from advisories from both the Army and the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (ABIN) warning the president about preparatory synod meetings.

The newspaper claims President Jair Bolsonaro's cabinet worries about the direction the discussions of some subjects might take, as they could possibly be hijacked by "a left-wing agenda." Topics that concern national sovereignty such as the situation of the indigenous populations of the Amazon region, climate change caused by deforestation and the maintenance of maroon communities are all causes of dissent between Bolsonaro's government and the Brazilian Episcopal Conference (CNBB).

According to Estadão, the current government is taking into consideration the role of the Brazilian Catholic Church as "a traditional ally of the Brazilian Workers' Party (PT)." Allegedly, officers from the Institutional Security Cabinet assessed the latest security reports and concluded that progressive factions of the Church planned on using the synod to criticize the Bolsonaro government at the international level.


The newspaper also reported that Army General Augusto Heleno, chief minister of the Institutional Security Cabinet, declared that "we are worried and we intend to neutralize this" as there are reasons for "real concern" in possible "interferences in internal affairs." According to Heleno, "The Church and the NGOs have for long been an influence in the [Amazonian] forest."

He continued: "The effort of the government in neutralizing the possible impacts of the synod will only strengthen Brazilian sovereignty and stop foreign interests from prevailing in the Amazon. The matter shall be carefully studied by the Security Cabinet."

Offices of ABIN in the Amazon and in surrounding indigenous areas were mobilized to monitor parishes and dioceses involved in the preparatory meetings for the synod. According to reports from the Amazon and the Northern Military Commands, the federal government plans to reach out to local authorities and members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy to work on the attempt to "neutralize" the negative effects of the synod.

I have movements behind me, I am supported by ... the students ... and the Catholic Church. ... I am the offspring of liberation theology, of syndicalism.

Some news outlets have also reported that the Brazilian government intends to liaise with Italian authorities to appeal to the Vatican in order to keep issues that affect Brazil's sovereignty at bay. Cooperation with the Italian government could prove not so advantageous though, as the Vatican's displeasure with the current leadership in Italy is so heightened that Fr. Antonio Spadaro, director of Vatican-approved magazine La Civiltà Cattolica, is even calling for a synod of the Italian Church to come up with a political alternative for the present state of affairs (with the support of the Italian Bishops' Conference).

In fact, news blog Il Sismografo (not Vatican-vetted, but nonetheless supervised by the Secretariat of State since it's run by Vatican News journalists) reported the news from Estadão as the desperate measure of an "extremist government," led by a "far-right extremist" who erroneously considers the Amazon as "Brazil's private resource."

As thoroughly reported by Church Militant last year, the Brazilian Catholic Church, which has served as liberation theology's laboratory since the 1960s, had also been strenuously working in its political reorganization in the face of the rise of political conservatism in the country. And liberation theology, considered by Fidel Castro as "more important than Marxism for revolution in Latin America," was indeed responsible for the rise of the Brazilian Workers' Party in Brazil.

Socialist former president (now imprisoned) Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva once affirmed that he's only got so far "because I have movements behind me, I am supported by ... the students ... and the Catholic Church. ... I am the offspring of liberation theology, of syndicalism."

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Cdl. Cláudio Hummes

Lula is close friends with Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, president of the Brazilian Episcopal Conference's (CNBB) Commission for the Amazon and a close ally of Pope Francis. Cardinal Hummes responded to Estadão that the Catholic Church has no intention of harming Bolsonaro's government.

The Institutional Security Cabinet released a statement reacting to the news leak on the following day:

The Catholic Church is not the object of any action by the Brazilian Intelligence Agency. ... There is no generalized criticism to the Catholic Church. There's the functional concern of the Chief Minister of the Institutional Security Cabinet regarding a few themes of the Pan-Amazonian Synod, which will take place in October. ... Some of the themes cover aspects that, in some way, affect national sovereignty. Therefore we reiterate the understanding of the Security Cabinet that it's Brazil's duty to take care of the Brazilian Amazon.

Following these reports, magazine Estudos Nacionais published a piece explaining that many of the topics to be discussed in the synod have been the recipients of more than $52 million of funding by several foundations since 2013. Preliminary research developed by the magazine reveals that the Indigenous Missionary Council, an organization for indigenous rights connected to CNBB, received $450,000 from the Ford Foundation alone.

The Prison Pastoral, also an organ of CNBB, received $420,000 between 2016 and 2018 from Ford. The Ford Foundation also finances gender ideology, gun control, abortion and other anti-Catholic issues. The magazine affirms that "matters related to the national territory have received from other international foundations $52 million between 2013 and 2018. This information justifies the government's concern with the part of the Catholic clergy linked to NGOs and international entities interested in establishing some control over the Brazilian territory."

Church Militant reached out to Estudos Nacionais asking to see more details of their inquiry, and the magazine replied the full funding report shall be published soon.

 

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