Archbishop of Recife and Olinda, Brazil
A simple man of the gospel, an untiring advocate for the poor and a defender of human rights. Believed and worked for social justice to empower the poor to be agents of social change.
“People are too heavy for you? Do not carry them on your shoulders, hold them in your heart.”
Rooted in prayer, he had a habit, like St. Francis of Assisi, of speaking to animals and inanimate objects and blessing everything that crossed his path. He was 5 feet tall, 120 lbs. and had an undying spirit; rose each day at 2 a.m. to pray the breviary.
Born 12th of 13 children, at the age of 8 knew that he was called to the priesthood. His father asked him, “Do you know what it means to be a priest? It means to belong to yourself no more. The priest belongs to God and to others.” To which young Dom responded, “That is exactly what I want to be!”
Communism and religious indifference in Brazil
Grassroots efforts to empower the poor to help themselves instead of relying on charity. He dodged an assassin attempt: “I can’t kill you,” said the hired assassin, “You are one of the Lord’s. He was denied public speaking for 13 years, and watched many religious and lay people die or be tortured because they knew him.
“I don’t need you gentlemen, I have my own security guards. They are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
Named Bishop and helped found the National Conference of the Bishops of Brazil and the Latin American Episcopal Conference. He has been called “the greatest man of the Church in Brazil.” At Vatican Council II he was known as the
bishop of the poor because of his concern for the problems of the Third World. Later named Archbishop.
“I feed the poor, I’m called a saint. I ask why the poor have no food, I’m called a communist.”
Sources: Fr. Tony Lalli s.x., Xaverian Newsletter