National Conference of Brazilian Bishops (CNBB)

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National Conference of Brazilian Bishops (CNBB)

Created in 1952, the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops (Confêrencia Nacional dos Bispos do Brasil—CNBB) has become the most important organization within the Brazilian Catholic Church. It was one of the first national episcopal conferences in the world and the first one in Latin America. Although the CNBB and other national episcopal conferences have circumscribed authority according to canon law, the CNBB has been of fundamental importance, for it has given the Brazilian church a centralized structure and a voice on behalf of the country's bishops.

Between 1952 and 1964, the CNBB supported ecclesiastical innovation and many reformist measures promoted by Brazil's governments. During this period, Bishop Hélder Câmara, the prime mover behind the CNBB's creation, served as secretary-general. In 1964, however, support grew within the Brazilian hierarchy for more conservative positions, and shortly after the military coup, the CNBB issued a statement that praised the armed forces for their intervention. Known for their progressive orientations, Câmara and his supporters were defeated by a conservative slate in CNBB elections in October 1964.

In 1968, Bishop Aloísio Lorscheider was elected secretary-general and began a new period of CNBB activism. During the 1970s, the CNBB became known for its criticisms of human rights violations, its calls for more attention to the plight of the poor, and its support for ecclesiastical innovations, especially Christian Base Communities. It also became a more organized institution that presented official church reactions to major public issues; by 1968 it was the only legitimate national voice for the Brazilian Catholic Church. In the 1980s, reflecting worldwide trends in the Roman Catholic Church as well as a period of democratization in Brazil, the CNBB retreated from the more visible political role it had assumed in the 1970s. Representing about 370 bishops, it is one of the three largest national bishops' conferences in the world.

See alsoCatholic Church: The Modern Period; Liberation Theology.


Thomas Bruneau, The Political Transformation of the Brazilian Catholic Church (1974), esp. pp. 107-126.

Gervásio Fernandes De Queiroga, Confêrencia Nacional dos Bispos do Brasil: Comunhão e corresponsabilidade (1977).

Additional Bibliography

Catholic Church, The. Pronunciamentos da CNBB: 1997–2003. 2nd ed. São Paulo: Edições Paulinas, 2004.

Félix, Loiva Otero, Daniela Oliveira Silveira, and Maria A. Ghisleni. Escrevam porque as ditaduras não duram para sempre. Passo Fundo: Universidade de Passo Fundo, 2004.

Guider, Margaret Eletta. Daughters of Rahab: Prostitution and the Church of Liberation in Brazil. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1995.

Mainwaring, Scott. The Catholic Church and Politics in Brazil, 1916–1985. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1986.

                                        Scott Mainwaring

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National Conference of Brazilian Bishops (CNBB)

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National Conference of Brazilian Bishops (CNBB)