Brazil: Bishops Criticize President Bolsonaro

June 24, 2019

At the end of their 57th General Assembly, held from May 1-9, 2019, in Aparecida, south of Rio de Janeiro, the 309 Bishops of Brazil issued a “message to the Brazilian people” that is especially critical of Jair Bolsonaro’s government. The prelates have warned “about the choice of an exacerbated and perverse [economic] liberalism, which is draining the state to the point of almost eliminating it.” They accused the president of “favoring the increase of inequalities and the concentration of wealth, thus allowing the rich to get richer at the expense of the poor, always poorer.”

No doubt encouraged by this public stance, the Brazilian trade union centers have requested the collaboration of the National Bishops’ Conference (CNBB) in the organization of the general strike against pension reform, scheduled for June 14, 2019 throughout the country. In their note, the movements have quoted Pope Francis as an argument for asking the CNBB to oppose the government measures.

Despite these very critical positions, the new president of the CNBB, Bishop Walmor Oliveira de Azevedo, was received by President Bolsonaro on May 29, 2019. Questioned by the Catholic television channel Canção Nova, the 65-year-old prelate, who is said to be “sensitive to the appeals and guiding principles of Pope Francis,” explained that he had come “to make a cordial and courteous visit.” The meeting was held without access for the press. This first meeting lasted less than an hour, at the Presidential Palace of Planalto, in Brasilia, the political capital of the country. Bishop Walmor Oliveira de Azevedo was assured that this visit was not intended to “bring a message,” but was aimed at “going forward together for the good of Brazilian society.”

It is unclear whether the two men discussed Brazil’s consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary that was carried out on May 21, 2019. The act was signed by the Brazilian head of state, Jair Bolsonaro, in the presence of several members of the government and members of the Catholic hierarchy, in front of a statue of the Virgin of Fatima who will now remain in a place of honor in the presidential palace.