Chute na santa incident
||This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the Portuguese Wikipedia. (July 2014)|
The "Chute na santa" (Portuguese: Chute na santa - "kicking of the saint") incident was a religious controversy that erupted in Brazil in late 1995, sparked by a live broadcast of a Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) minister kicking the image of a Roman Catholic saint.
The incident took place on October 12, 1995, the same day of the national holiday in which Our Lady of Aparecida, the patron saint of Brazil, is celebrated. That dawn, on O Despertar da Fé (English: The Awakening of Faith), a national live television program by UCKG broadcast on Rede Record (owned by the same church), televangelist bishop Sérgio Von Helder was expressing his thoughts about his church's teachings on "imagery" and "idolatry" on the saint's day, when an actual icon of the saint was shown. Then, as he walked around the image, talking about its inability "to see" and "to hear", he started to kick the image, proclaiming its "inability to react, because it's made of clay".
On the following day, Rede Globo's Jornal Nacional denounced the incident, causing a nationwide commotion. The event was perceived by Catholics as a major act of religious intolerance, causing a public outcry. Several temples of the UCKG were a target of protests, and Von Helder had to be transferred to South Africa until the end of the controversy.
Some see the incident as another clash between Rede Record and Rede Globo. A few months prior to the incident, Globo had broadcast a mini-series by Dias Gomes titled Decadência (English: Decadence), which showed the saga of Mariel Batista (Edson Celulari) a corrupt Protestant pastor. According to a Rede Record documentary about the imprisonment of Edir Macedo (UCKG founder and Record owner), some lines of the character were based on public speeches by him.
Pope John Paul II urged Catholics not to "respond evil with evil". Dom Eugênio de Araújo Sales, then Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, said that "unless we control our emotions, there is the risk of a holy war.
President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, when questioned about the incident, said that "Brazil is a democratic country known by its tolerance" and that "any demonstration of intolerance hurts its unison spirit as well as its Christian spirit".
The "kicking of the saint" episode is referenced in the 1997 song "Guerra Santa" (Portuguese: Holy war), written and performed by Gilberto Gil. In this song, featured in the album Quanta, Gil criticizes prosperity theology, one of the tenets of UCKG and other popular Neopentecostal churches in Brazil.