Pedro Casaldaliga (1928-2020)



Commentary on the life and death of the bishop emeritus of São Félix do Araguaia

The heart of Pedro Casaldáliga, Catalan of the world, stopped beating on August 8, 2020, after 92 years of earthly existence. An ecumenical Catholic, devoted to all the missions of Justice and Freedom, bishop emeritus of São Félix do Araguaia (MT), Pedro made his crossing.

The heart of Pedro, stone and flower, poet and prophet, “defeated fighter of invincible causes” – as he liked to say -, will continue to beat, inspiring the journey of those who will come after him. Of those who will come after us, your comrades in faith, dreams and struggles. The life of one who bears witness is never lost.

The times I met Pedro – not many, unfortunately – I joked: “you should be our pope!”. He would reply in the same tone, with his good humor: “For that very reason, for people like you to want, I will never be; Besides, I have no vocation for a prince.”

Pedro saw in Pope Francis, however, at the top of the most enduring monarchical institution in the West, a blessing, an attempt to return to Christianity from the catacombs, from the beginning. For Pedro, the coherent thing to be a Christian was to be stripped and discontented: “to own nothing, to carry nothing, to ask for nothing, to remain silent and, above all, to kill nothing!”.

It was the dictatorship who wanted to kill Pedro, it was the latifundio. His evangelization partner, Father João Bosco Burnier, was fatally wounded, but he was not harmed. They tried to expel him from the country, as they did with Father Francisco Jentel, his equal in the prelature, but due to the intervention of Pope Paul VI, who had appointed him bishop, they did not succeed.

Pedro was a resistant hopeful: “we are the loneliness that we endure, that we welcome, that we share, that we transcend!”.

It is symbolic of his visceral solidarity with the oppressed that Pedro's body was erased on the day that, in Brazil, we reached the 100 thousand tragic deaths by Covid. Pedro is there, light in the darkness, comforting the afflicted, denouncing the insensitivity of the rotten powers – as he did throughout his life.

Pedro was bishop with the tucum ring, with the crosier that was a staff or a native oar, with the straw hat as a miter. Pedro Bispo dos Commons, from the calcined and immense Brazilian soil, from the deep waters of the Araguaia. Pedro of the poor and oppressed, of the peasants, of the Indians, of the disinherited of the Earth: “in the womb of Mary, God became man. But, in Joseph's workshop, God also made himself class”. Peter of Liberation!

So he preached, so he lived. That's why death, when it came, wanting something of its own, found nothing to take. Everything was donated, delivered, shared. Thus death was conquered by Peter, the cornerstone.

Much denser than ours, the lived words of Peter will continue to guide and animate us – mysteries of faith:

“To rest / I only want this wooden cross / like rain and sun / These seven spans / and the Resurrection”. Pedro asked to be buried in his adopted land, in the Carajás cemetery, in the shade of a pequi tree, among the precarious tombs of a laborer and a prostitute. Peter knew, as it is written in the Gospel of Matthew (21, 31), that they will proceed us into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Pedro Casaldaliga, faithful friend of the Jesus of the poor, a fragment of God on earth, is fulfilled in the Mystical, Cosmic and Eternal Body of Almighty Love, whom he served so much. Pedro is in the struggles of all peoples, of all times, for his/our emancipation. Glory, thanks!

* Chico Alencar Professor at UFRJ, writer and former federal deputy (PSOL/RJ).


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