Pedro Casaldàliga – the Spanish-born Claretian missionary, prophet and voice of conscience to the world against all forms of injustice who served for over three decades as Bishop of São Félix do Araguaia in the Brazilian Amazon – died Saturday at the age of 92.

As a tribute to the ‘bishop of the poor’, Novena is publishing texts today and tomorrow from Casaldàliga’s own pen which reflect better than any obituary his vision – deeply and refreshingly evangelical – of a more just and more fraternal and sororal Church and world.

The first of these texts comes from a circular letter Casaldàliga wrote in 2009.

“Once more and for all time, I declare that I hold to the slogan: ‘Hope'”

[…] Today, in the Church (that Church of Jesus made up of various churches) and also in society (which consists of various peoples, many cultures, and a variety of historical processes), we need to radicalize the search for justice and peace, for human dignity and equality in otherness. We need to radicalize real progress in the context of deep ecology.

Like [Norberto] Bobbio [an Italian philosopher – ed.], we need also to say that “Freedom has to be set into the very heart of equality.” Today this needs to happen in the context of vision and action that is literally global. This is the other globalization, the one that defends our thinkers, our activists, our martyrs, and our starving people.

The current major economic crisis is a global crisis of Humanity. It will not be resolved by any form of capitalism because there is no space for capitalism with a human heart.

Capitalism continues to be homicidal, ecocidal, and suicidal. There is no way to simultaneously serve the god of the banks and the God of Life. We cannot put arrogance and usury in the same category as living together fraternally.

The fundamental question is whether we are trying to save the System or to save Humanity. In Chinese, the word for crisis has a double meaning. It can mean crisis as danger or as opportunity. Great crises open up great opportunities…


Today, in the current situation of upheaval, we profess the validity of many social, political, and ecclesial dreams. In no way can we renounce them. We continue rejecting neoliberal capitalism, the neo-imperialism of money and arms, and the economy of the market and consumerism that buries a large majority of Humanity in poverty and hunger.

We will continue to reject all discrimination based on gender, culture, or race. We demand a substantial transformation of world organizations like the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization.

We pledge to live a “deep and integral ecology” by fostering alternative agrarian-agricultural politics in opposition to the predatory politics of the estate owners and of those who practice monoculture and toxic agriculture.

We will participate in transformational social, political, and economic efforts aimed at promoting a democracy of “high intensity.”

As Church, in the light of the Gospel, we want to live the obsessive passion of Jesus and the Reign of God. We want to be a Church of the option for the poor, an ecumenical community and a macro-ecumenical one as well.

The God in whom we believe, the Abba of Jesus, cannot in any way support fundamentalisms, exclusions, devouring inclusions, or proselytizing pride.

Enough of making our God the only true one! “My God, will you let me see God?” With all due respect for the opinion of Pope Benedict XVI, interreligious dialogue is not only possible, it is necessary.

We will make ecclesial co-responsibility the legitimate expression of an adult faith.

Correcting centuries of discrimination, we will demand full equality for women in the life and ministries of the Church.

We will encourage the respected freedom and service of our theologians, both men and women.

The Church will be a network of prayerful, servant, prophetic, communities that are witnesses to the Good News. It will be a Good News of life, of freedom, of blessed communion; a Good News of mercy, welcome, pardon, and tenderness; of a Samaritan woman standing beside all the paths of Humanity.

We will continue to make sure that the warning of Jesus, “It will not be so among you” (Matt. 21:26), is lived out in practice. Let authority be service.

The Vatican will cease to be a State and the Pope will no longer be a Head of State. The Curia will have to be profoundly reformed and local churches will promote the inculturation of the Gospel and shared ministry.

Without fear and without evasions, the Church will be committed to the towering goal of justice and peace, of human rights and of the avowed equality of all peoples. It will be a prophetic voice of proclamation, of denunciation, and of consolation. The politics practiced by all Christian men and women will be “the highest expression of fraternal love” (Pius XI).

We refuse to abandon these dreams even though they may appear illusory: “We still sing, we still dream.” We will hold to the word of Jesus: “I have come to bring fire to the Earth, and how I wish it were blazing already” (Luke 12:49).

By following Jesus with humility and courage, we will see how to live these dreams each day of our lives.

We will continue having crises. Humanity, with its religions and churches, will continue being holy and sinful.

But we will not lack the global campaigns of solidarity, the Social Forums, the Vias Campesinas, the popular movements, the successes of the Landless Peasants, the ecological alliances, the alternative paths of Our America, the Basic Ecclesial Communities, the efforts at reconciliation between Shalom and Salam, and the indigenous and Afro-American victories.

Once more and for all time, I declare that “I hold to the slogan: Hope.”

Let each one of us, men and women, who are able to come into this fraternal circle, in communion of religious faith or of human passion, receive an embrace as big as these dreams.

We who are old still have dreams, says the Bible (Joel 3:1). A few days ago I read this definition: “Old age is a sort of post-war”, though not necessarily one of backing down. Parkinson’s is only a chance happening along the way. We continue with the Reign of God inside.

For more texts by Casaldàliga in English, follow this link to the Koinonia website

Next on Novena:

Pedro Casaldàliga, Spanish-born ‘bishop of the poor’ in Brazil and hero of liberation theology, dies at 92