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Casaldáliga, Pedro (1928–)

Casaldáliga, Pedro (1928–)

Pedro Casaldáliga (b. 1928), bishop of São Félix do Araguaia, Brazil. Casaldáliga was born in Barcelona and raised on his family's cattle ranch in Catalonia. In 1952 he was ordained into the Claretian order, and sixteen years later he arrived in Brazil. By 1971 he had attracted the attention of Brazilian authorities by writing a critical report titled "Feudalism and Slavery in Northern Mato Grosso." In the following year Casaldáliga was consecrated as the first bishop of São Félix do Araguaia, a large but remote region in the states of Goiás and Mato Grosso.

In subsequent years, however, the prolific writer and poet found himself in direct conflict with the landowners of Goiás and Mato Grosso, the Brazilian government, and the Catholic hierarchy because of his emphasis on developing community leadership among the peasants within his diocese, providing health care and education, and resisting the continued expansion of ranches at the expense of peasants' rights. In 1973, the same year that the Missionary Council to Indigenous Peoples was founded in Brazil, Francisco Jentel, a priest under Casaldáliga's authority, was tried under Brazil's National Security Law for inciting class warfare as the government sought resolutions to continuing conflicts at Santa Terezinha. In October 1976 Casaldáliga was present when Brazilian authorities shot and killed a Jesuit missionary, João Bosco Penido Burnier, for interfering with the interrogation and torture of two women. After 1973 public criticism began to surface from Archbishop Sigaud and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger about Casaldáliga's pastoral work as well as his theological convictions.

In 1985 Casaldáliga began traveling extensively throughout Central America, including Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Cuba, in "a ministry of borders and consolation." As a result of criticism for these trips, as well as for his writings supportive of liberation theologians and his characterization of Archbishop Oscar Romero as a martyr, in 1988 the Vatican issued an order that Casaldáliga not speak publicly, publish any further writings, or leave his diocese without explicit permission. After his seventy-fifth birthday he was ordered to retire and he decided to remain in the same spartan residence where he had lived for more than thirty-five years. Though diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, he chose to remain in Brazil to continue to fight for rights for the poor. In both 1989 and 1992 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

See alsoCatholic Church: The Modern Period; Liberation Theology.


Teófilo Cabestrero, Mystic of Liberation: A Portrait of Pedro Casaldáliga (1981).

Penny Lernoux, Cry of the People, rev. ed. (1982).

Scott Mainwaring, The Catholic Church and Politics in Brazil, 1916–1985 (1986).

Kevin Neuhouser, "The Radicalization of the Brazilian Catholic Church in Comparative Perspective," in American Sociological Review 54, no. 2 (1989): 233-244.

Pedro Casaldáliga, In Pursuit of the Kingdom, translated by Philip Berryman (1990).

Additional Bibliography

Beozzo, José Oscar. Brazil: People and Church(es). London: SCM Press, 2002.

Escribano, Francesc. Descalzo sobre la tierra roja. Barcelona: Ediciones Península, 2002.

                                    Carolyn E. Vieira

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