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Date: Sun, 29 Aug 1999 13:29:44 -0500 (CDT)
From: Colombian Labor Monitor <xx738@prairienet.org>
Subject: Brazil's Helder Camara, champion of poor, dies at 90
Article: 74183
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.26233.19990830091726@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

Brazil's Helder Camara, champion of poor, dies at 90

By Beatriz Lecumberri, Agence France Presse, Saturday 28 August 1999

When I feed the poor, they call me a saint.
When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.

Dom Helder Camara,
Archbishop of Recife, Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- Roman Catholic priest Helder Camara, a champion of Brazil's poor and a pioneer of Latin America's liberation theology movement, died Friday in Recife, in northeastern Brazil, television reports said. He was 90.

Known as the red bishop during this country's 1964-1985 military dictatorship, Camara was a stanch defender of human rights and helped shape liberation theology, which found justification for social change in the Gospel.

Camera had been suffering for the past week from a urinary infection, which forced him into hospital about a week ago.

During the 1970s, Don Helder, as he was known, was a vociferous critic of Brazil's conservative Roman Catholic establishment. His outspoken criticism of the military regime's human rights violations won him international renown.

Camara, who became bishop of Recife in 1952 at the age of 43, continued his priestly duties right to the end, officiating at mass and living in a humble home in a poor neighborhood in the outskirts of the city.

His influence in the Brazilian church was felt early on, when he became a founder and first president of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops, in 1952.

Later he worked on preparations for the Second Vatican Council, known as Vatican II. The council, which ran from 1962 to 1965, introduced a number of wide-ranging reforms to the structure and practices of the church.

When Brazil's democratically elected president Joao Goulart was overthrown by a military coup in 1964, Camara stepped up his work for social change in Latin America's largest nation, and drew the attention of other progressive minded Catholics throughout the world.

When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint, he said once. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.

However, his influence began to decline when John Paul II became pope in 1978, and began clamping down on the liberal and often Marxist-influenced teachings of liberation theology.

He retired as bishop in 1985, and was replaced by conservative traditionalist Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, who began to reverse many of Camara's reforms.

Don Helder Camara is situated beyond Liberation Theology, Father Nelmo Roque Ten Kathen, his biographer, wrote. In his work we find not a theologist, nor a philosopher, but a pastor in the simplest sense of the word.

Helder Camara read much in his life, and knew Marxist theory very well, Kathen wrote. But there is nothing in his writings that would allow one to categorize him as a man of the left.

After his retirement he cut back on his public appearances, but his fame persisted. He was bishop-emeritus of Olinda and Recife at the time of his death.