Arns, Paulo Evaristo (1921–)

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Arns, Paulo Evaristo (1921–)

Paulo Evaristo Arns (b. 14 September 1921), archbishop of São Paulo, Brazil (1970–). A Franciscan priest born in Forquilhinha, Santa Catarina, Arns was a relatively unknown figure until he was named auxiliary bishop of São Paulo in 1966. Like most of the hierarchy, Arns supported the 1964 military coup, but after being named archbishop in November 1970, he became a trenchant critic of the military government and one of Brazil's outstanding voices on behalf of human rights. A venerated public figure, Arns denounced the widespread use of torture. In January 1972 he created the Arch-diocesan Justice and Peace Commission, which became known for its efforts to defend human rights. In his pastoral work, Arns supported Christian base communities, which became controversial in the 1970s and 1980s because of some activists' support for the labor movement and the Workers' Party. In 1973, he was named a cardinal.

After becoming one of Brazil's most prominent public figures in the 1970s, Arns fell out of favor with the Vatican and was less visible in the 1980s. When John Paul II became pope in 1978, Arns and the archdiocese of São Paulo came under careful scrutiny. In 1980, the pope asked Arns to write a report explaining and defending the church's overt support for a major strike that had taken place that year. Four years later, the Vatican undertook an investigation of seminars in dioceses identified with liberation theology, including the archdiocese of São Paulo, which was admonished to avoid portraying Christ as a revolutionary. In 1989, the pope dismantled and subdivided the archdiocese, which had previously been the largest in the world in terms of its Catholic population. Arns remained archbishop of São Paulo, but it was now a smaller archdiocese, from which most of the poor areas where base communities had flourished were excised. During the 1990s, his archdiocese actively promoted social services and lent help to those suffering from AIDS. In 1998, Arnes retired and became an archbishop emeritus. However, he continued to be a voice against poverty and inequality, critiquing even the leftist government of Lula for not aggressively addressing these matters.

See alsoAcquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS); Brazil, Political Parties: Workers Party (PT); Catholic Church: The Modern Period; John Paul II, Pope; Liberation Theology.


Paulo Evaristo Arns, Em defensa direitos humanos (1978).

Helcion Ribeiro, ed., Paulo Evaristo Arns (1989).

W. E. Hewitt, Base Christian Communities and Social Change in Brazil (1991), esp. pp. 28-37.

Additional Bibliography

Serbin, Ken P. Secret Dialogues: Church-State Relations, Torture, and Social Justice in Authoritarian Brazil. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000.

Sousa, Jessie Jane Vieira de. Círculos operários: A Igreja Católica e o mundo do trabalho no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: Editora UFRJ, 2002.

Vásquez, Manuel A. The Brazilian Popular Church and the Crisis of Modernity. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

                                    Scott Mainwaring

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