|Archbishop-Emeritus of Olinda e Recife|
|See||Olinda e Recife (Emeritus)|
|Installed||12 March 1964|
|Term ended||2 April 1985|
|Predecessor||Carlos Gouveia Coelho|
|Successor||José Cardoso Sobrinho|
|Ordination||20 April 1952
by Jaime de Barros Câmara
|Birth name||Hélder Pessoa Câmara|
February 7, 1909|
|Died||August 27, 1999
|Coat of arms|
Dom Hélder Pessoa Câmara (Portuguese: [dõ ˈɛwdeɾ peˈsoɐ ˈkɐ̃mɐɾɐ]; February 7, 1909 – August 27, 1999) was Catholic Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Brazil, serving from 1964 to 1985 during the military regime of the country.
Early life and education
He was born Hélder Pessoa Câmara in Fortaleza, Ceará, in the poor Northeast Region of Brazil. His father was accountant and his mother a primary school teacher. He went to local Catholic schools and decided to become a priest, completing seminary.
After his appointment as the 'Bishop of Corum,' Câmara was known for his clear position on the side of the urban poor. With other clerics, he encouraged peasants to think beyond their conventionally fatalistic outlook by studying the gospels in small groups and asking what conclusions could be drawn for social change. In 1959 he founded Banco da Providência in Rio de Janeiro, a philanthropic organization to fight poverty and social injustice by making it easier for poor people to receive loans.
Under the guidance of archbishop Hélder Câmara, the Catholic church in Brazil became an outspoken critic of the 1964-85 military dictatorship and a powerful movement for social change. Câmara spoke out and wrote about the implications of using violence to repress rebellion resulting from poverty and injustice in other venues than Brazil.
A proponent of liberation theology, he was Archbishop of the Diocese of Olinda and Recife from 1964 to 1985, during a period when the country had a series of military rulers. Liberation theology politicised the church's charitable work and brought criticisms that it was encouraging the armed revolutionary struggles that swept Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s.
He published Spiral of Violence (1971), a short tract written when the United States was immersed in a still escalating Vietnam War. It is distinctive for linking structural injustice (Level 1 violence) with escalating rebellion (Level 2 violence) and repressive reaction (Level 3 violence). In it, Câmara called on the youth of the world to take steps to break the spiral, saying their elders became addicted to those escalating steps. By the early 21st century, this book had been out of print in the United Kingdom for about 20 years. A scanned version in English is available on the web at the link given below.
Legacy and honors
- In 1973, Câmara was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).
- In 1975, he was awarded the Pacem in Terris Award, initiated by the Catholic Interracial Council of the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa. It was named after a 1963 encyclical letter by Pope John XXIII that calls upon all people of good will to secure peace among all nations. Pacem in Terris is Latin for "Peace on Earth".
He died, aged 90, in Recife.
- Quote: "Quando dou comida aos pobres chamam-me de santo. Quando pergunto por que eles são pobres chamam-me de comunista." – cited in Zildo Rocha, Helder, O Dom: uma vida que marcou os rumos da Igreja no Brasil (Helder, the Gift: A Life that Marked the Course of the Church in Brazil), Page 53, Editora Vozes, 2000, ISBN 85-326-2213-5, ISBN 978-85-326-2213-6 – 208 pages (Portuguese)
- O'Shaughnessy, Hugh. "Helder Câmara – Brazil's archbishop of the poor", The Guardian, October 13, 2009
- `Bishop of the slums', Links (Australia)
- Bellos, Alex. "Helder Camara" (obit), The Guardian, August 31, 1999
- Nobel Peace Prize nominations. American Friends Service Committee
- Regan, David. C.S.Sp Why Are They Poor?: Helder Camara in Pastoral Perspective. Münster: Lit, [2002?].
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hélder Câmara.|
- Links for Dom Helder Camara
- Text of Câmara's Spiral of Violence, Alastair McIntosh website
- Text of Câmara's 1972 speeches to Mani Tese, University of St. Thomas