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Death of Bishop Pedro Casaldáliga: “Liberation Theology Loses Its Herald”

“Liberation Theology Loses Its Herald”

The Spanish Claretian prelate and poet Pedro Casaldáliga, bishop emeritus of the Amazonian diocese of São Félix do Araguaia, and one of the most active exponents of liberation theology, died in Brazil in early August. While he did not participate in the recent Synod on the Amazon due to his advanced age, the Synod’s documents, and even the apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia paid homage to the leading role he played in previous decades.

Few people remember the dramatic gestures of the Catalan prelate such as, for example, on February 28, 1980 when at a “Sandinista Evening” session at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo he was given a guerrilla uniform by the Nicaraguan guerrilla leader Daniel Ortega, who had just seized power. Both Ortega and his chaplain and liberation theologian Uriel Molina and other exponents of the new Sandinista regime thus paid homage to Bishop Casaldáliga. In a climate of hysterical enthusiasm and in a sort of mystical trance, and explicitly inciting other countries of the region to repeat the bloody Nicaraguan civil war, the prelate donned the military jacket and replied:

“I would like to thank you for this sacrament of liberation, which I receive with facts, and, if needed, also with blood! Dressed as a guerrilla fighter, I feel like a priest in his vestments. The guerrilla warfare and the Mass are the same celebrations that push us towards the same hope. We must bear witness to our commitment to death!” (1)

Because of this and other similar episodes, such as invasions of agricultural lands, the Brazilian authorities of the time considered expelling him from the country, for despite being the ordinary of an Amazonian diocese, he was still a foreign citizen encouraging violent subversion. But the feisty Catalan prelate always found strong supporters like the Cardinal of São Paulo, Paulo E. Arns, who in 1976 stated, “I heard from Paul VI himself that messing with Dom Pedro Casaldáliga is like messing with the Pope himself.”(2).

During the international conference titled “Amazonia: the Stakes,” organized by the Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira Institute  at the Quirinale Hotel in Rome on October 5, 2019, the American TFP scholar James Bascom, in a speech titled “Green is the New Red,” stated,

“The pre-Christian, primitive Indian of the Americas serves as a model for both Socialism and Ecology. It was in Latin America in the 1970s, specifically in Brazil, where these ideas were adopted and implemented by the Catholic Left. (…)

“In response to this Revolution, in 1977, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira wrote a book called “Indigenous Tribalism: Communist-Missionary Ideal for Brazil in the Twenty-First Century.” Prof. Plinio showed, in their own words, how Catholic Leftist missionaries in Brazil see the lifestyle, morals, and religion of the Brazilian Indians as expressing the principles of Socialism and Ecology to the highest degree. Primitive Indians live without capitalism, private property, without Christian faith or morals, and living in harmony with the Earth. In other words, they live both the Socialist and Ecological utopias. Therefore, to save the Earth and themselves from destruction, Westerners must destroy their economic, political, and social institutions and imitate the tribal life of the Amazon Indians.

“Bishop Pedro Casaldáliga, a leading figure of Indigenous Tribalism in Brazil in the 1970s, described himself and the movement as “trans-Communist”, that is, a movement based on the same principles of Communism yet taking them to a more radical conclusion. The perfect fulfillment of Communism, if you will. Likewise, this Ecological Indigenous Tribalism, which the Pan Amazon Synod aims to implement, is nothing less than old Communism that has simply metamorphosed.

“Communism has not died but lives on in the form of Ecology. Green is the new Red. Ecology is the perfect fulfillment of the egalitarian dream of Karl Marx and the total subversion of the hierarchical order that God placed in the universe. It would be impossible to conceive of a greater rejection of God’s order than this.” (3) 

In the seventies and eighties, the somewhat risky sallies of Bishop Casaldáliga multiplied. In an article titled “The Outburst begins” (Folha de S. Paulo, 20-7-1981; published in the United States by TFP Newsletter, Vol. II, No. 22, 1981, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira wrote:

Mons. Casaldaliga with Fidel Castro

… “There has been an outburst of reformist statements by certain bishops. It started with a speech in Rio Grande do Sul, by Msgr. Pedro Casaldáliga, Bishop of S. Felix do Araguaia. He began with a harsh reproach to the Church itself: if “during its twenty centuries, [it) had followed the program of the Beatitudes, we would have a socialized society … The Christian ideal is equivalent to the ideal of socialism.” A little later, the prelate is even clearer regarding his leanings and ideas: “I do not canonize the Soviet or Cuban socialism, but there are positive aspects: Cuba has given lessons in health and education to all of its people … The socialism of Nicaragua is a good path.” Finally, after denying that socialism is the cause of poor harvests in Russia, the uninhibited prelate affirms: “In the socialist countries the people live better, and there is less hunger there than in the capitalist countries” (cf. Jornal do Brasil, 6/17 /81). As far as absurdities go, this one is really monumental.” (4)

Bishop Casaldáliga died at the advanced age of 92, in time to see a resounding denial of his claim that “people live better in socialist countries.” He also saw many of his socialist-tribalist utopias, symbolized by the figure of Pachamama, proposed as models of “good living” (Querida Amazonia 8, 26, 71), in contrast to the alleged or real drawbacks afflicting Western civilization, which the Catalan prelate vilified for decades. Like other leading exponents of liberation theology, Bishop Casaldáliga made the entire journey from Old socio-economic Marxism to cultural and green neo-Marxism.



  1. Catolicismo, July-August, 1980. 
  2. O São Paulo, January 6, 1976. 


Source: Messa in Latino, August 16, 2020.


Translated by the staff of Fatima Today.


© Reproduction is authorized provided the source is acknowledged.


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