Zilda Arns

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Zilda Arns Neumann
Zilda Arns.jpeg
Arns on June 1, 2004
BornZilda Arns Neumann
(1934-08-25)25 August 1934
Forquilhinha, Santa Catarina, Brazil
Died12 January 2010(2010-01-12) (aged 75)
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church

Zilda Arns Neumann (August 25, 1934 – January 12, 2010) was a Brazilian pediatrician and aid worker.

A sister of Cardinal Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns, the former Archbishop of São Paulo known for his efforts against the Brazilian military dictatorship, Zilda Arns became internationally known by founding a Catholic pastoral care for poor children. Her humanitarian work, which also included the poor and the elderly, spanned over three decades.[1]

Arns died on January 12, 2010 as a result of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.[2] Five years after her death, the Archdiocese of São Paulo formally launched a diocesan investigation, opening the way to canonization and recognition of her status as a saint.[3][4]

Early life and education[edit]

Born in the rural town of Forquilhinha, Arns was one of the 13 children of Gabriel Arns (1890–1965) and Helene Arns (née Steiner) (1894–1974).[5] She was the aunt of Senator Flávio Arns.

Two of Arns' memories were of seeing her father go door-to-door on his horse to help contain a smallpox epidemic and watching her mother arrange for a sick neighbour to be taken to the nearest hospital on the back of a cart, a journey of three hours.[6] Those acts inspired her contemplate life as a doctor, even most of her priests or teachers.[6]

Having studied medicine, she graduated from university in 1959, UFPR - Federal University of Paraná. Arns further studied public health, with the aim of assisting poor children in environments plagued with high child mortality rates, malnutrition and violence.


After she worked in local hospitals tending to infants, she was then given charge of a string of clinics on the impoverished outskirts of the southern city of Curitiba.[6]

Arns was the founder coordinator of Pastoral da Criança (Pastoral Care for Children),[7] an organ for social action of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil. The Care for Children has one of the largest programs in the world devoted to child health and nutrition. The pro has about 260,000 volunteers and has reduced infant mortality by more than half in over 31,000 urban and rural communities of intense poverty.

Arns also coordinated Pastoral da Pessoa Idosa (Pastoral Care for Elderly Persons), and social action organisms of the Episcopal Conference of Brazil.

As a Catholic, Arns condemned contraception. Her approach was based on familial education in order to help decrease the rates of petty crime and preventable diseases.

Personal life[edit]

The funeral of Zilda Arns
President Lula and Senator Flávio Arns, among other authorities, at the funeral of Zilda Arns.

Widowed since 1978, she was a mother of five and grandmother of nine. Arns was killed by the Haiti earthquake of 12 January 2010 in Port-au-Prince,[8] where she was carrying out humanitarian activities on behalf of Pastoral da Criança. She was struck in the head by falling debris from the roof of a church in which she had just given a speech. She was 75 years old at the time. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva attended her funeral.

Awards and honours[edit]

She was awarded with several honorary citizen titles throughout Brazil. She was also recognized as a Public Health Heroe by Pan American Health Organization[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Downie, Andrew (13 January 2010). "Legendary Brazilian aid worker among the victims of Haiti earthquake". Retrieved 25 October 2016 – via Christian Science Monitor.
  2. ^ Folha Online – Mundo – Fundadora da Pastoral da Criança, Zilda Arns morre em tremor no Haiti (in Portuguese)
  3. ^ "2010". Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  4. ^ "Pastoral da Criança - Início". Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  5. ^ Câmara reúne alemães em sessão solene
  6. ^ a b c Zilda ArnsThe Daily Telegraph obituary
  7. ^ Statement by Doctor Zilda Arns Neumann, national founder and coordinator of the Pastoral Care for Children Archived 2007-06-07 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Haiti Earthquake, the Day After from UN Dispatch Archived 2010-01-17 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Pan American Health Organization. Public Health Heroes. Dr. Zilda Arns Newmann.

External links[edit]

Media related to Zilda Arns at Wikimedia Commons