Known in Brazil as the “bishop of the poor,” retired Bishop Pedro Casaldaliga Pla, 92, died in Sao Paulo on 8 August due to respiratory problems arising from pneumonia.
Due to his unrelenting defence of the indigenous population and of the struggle of peasants for land ownership, the retired bishop of Sao Felix was seen as an enemy by land barons, miners and loggers.
“He put himself at the service of the great causes of humanity, which led him to fearlessly face every form of power, oppression and death faced by the poor men and women workers of the Amazon, marginalised in Brazil and in several Latin American countries. Pedro (Casaldaliga) is a legacy and a reference for citizens from all over the world who fight for democracy, for those who dream of a more just and egalitarian world, who want a free and preserved Amazon for the peoples and communities present there,” the Brazilian bishops’ Pastoral Land Commission said on its webpage.
“He made the church realise that we cannot abandon the poor,” Archbishop Leonardo Ulrich Steiner of Manaus told Catholic News Service.
Dubbing him a “prophet,” the Brazilian bishops’ Indigenous Missionary Council said that in his simple gestures, Bishop Casaldaliga knew better than anyone how to “shelter the little ones of God.”
“It was decades of commitment to the peoples’ struggles, defending and amplifying the voice of the indigenous, the peasants, the blacks, the women and the most forgotten. Since its inception almost 50 years ago, CIMI has been inspired by Bishop Pedro’s example of prophetic life,” said the Indigenous Missionary Council, using its Portuguese acronym, CIMI. “His life was a gift and grace for all of us.”
One of the bishop’s favourite sayings was “If in doubt, side with the poor,” according to many who spoke to CNS.
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With thanks to America Magazine, Catholic News Service and Lise Alves, where this article originally appeared.