From the MST web site
This Tuesday (February 16th), the “bishop of the people” of the Prelature of São Félix do Araguaia in Mato Grosso, Dom Pedro Casaldáliga, would have turned 93 years old. The landless workers of the MST celebrate his birth by continuing his legacy of humility and rebellion.
Pedro left this world in 2020, but the MST’s Landless remember that his example continues to guide the struggle of the oppressed people of the world.
The bishop was always on the side of the poor and marginalized in the countryside in the fight against the powerful farmers, loggers, and destroyers of the Araguaia region. For this reason, he was persecuted and threatened with death several times. He brought his solidarity to the oppressed peoples of Latin America and all of Brazil in various moments of repression.
He was a great supporter of the struggle for land in Brazil and was present in several places in the first land occupations of the MST. Forty years ago, Pedro wrote a letter from the Prelature of São Félix do Araguaia, in solidarity with the struggle of the Encampados of the Encruzilhada Natalino in Ronda Alta, in Rio Grande do Sul, dated September 1981. His letter was published in Jornal Sem Terra, in May 15 of that year.
After having celebrated a mass with the settlers of Ronda Alta, he demonstrated his support and encouraged the Landless to resist in the struggle. “I left my prayer and brotherhood rosary on the camp cross. And I assumed at that time, in the name of our entire Church, a commitment of definitive solidarity,” he says in an excerpt from the letter.
Read the letter in full:
I write to you, on behalf of the entire Prelature of São Félix do Araguaia, MT. One day I visited you and with you I celebrated the Eucharist, which is always the death and resurrection of Jesus and his people. From you I received, as a small sacrament of communion and commitment, a small bag of earth, moist with cold, tears, and even blood. I left my rosary of prayer and brotherhood on the camp cross.
And at that time, I made a definitive commitment to solidarity on behalf of our entire Church.
You are now experiencing a crossroads moment. The selfishness of those who accumulate land in their hands and the arrogance of national security, shared with them, want to close the path of law for you.
They will never be able to close the paths of faith and justice to you; they will never be able to close off the wide road of hope before you. If you stay together you will win.
Open your eyes and look beyond the crossroads. Do this today and do it tomorrow.
One day this system will end, dividing us into rich and poor, privileged, and marginalized. The land belongs to everyone. Brazil belongs to the Brazilians and Rio Grande do Sul belongs to the gauchos.
Everyone fits if we want to be equal.
Many other farmers, workers, indigenous, unemployed, people without land, without homes, food and freedom are struggling along with you in this country, in Latin America, in this world.
Your organized stubbornness is a light and a strength for all these people. The Natalino Crossroads became a real crossroads of liberation. Your encampment became an encampment for the people of God on the march, looking for the promised land on earth and in heaven.
Colonel “Curió” left you scorned, threatening you with repression and slandering those who helped you. But Jesus Christ remains with you, powerful, faithful, and liberating, supporting you with your spirit and approving the happiness of those who accompany you on this journey.
We believe in the good news of Jesus Christ’s liberation and not in the repressive code of National Security.
Keep meeting, discussing together. Keep praying in community. Do not allow discouragement or disunity between you. Do not listen to either lying or gossip.
All the Catholic bishops of Rio Grande have already given you a clear word of approval and encouragement with your August 18 document. Many Catholic brothers, evangelicals, priests, pastors, religious, journalists, entire communities, unions, people’s politicians, the CPT [Pastoral Land Commission] and other organizations, both in Rio Grande do Sul and throughout the country are with you.
The struggle is not over. The path will not be difficult. A whole people are camped on the bank. But our daily faithfulness is a new victory each day.
“Don’t be afraid” – Jesus says – “I already won”. This world of injustice and sin and death. We will also win with him.
In this Mass on September 8, the feast of Our Lady, the conqueror of the land for the landless people, I and the whole Church of São Félix do Araguaia will be celebrating with you, the Easter of Jesus, which is our Easter.
To all of you, to each one of you, to those who accompany you in this struggle, starting with the courageous Father Arnildo, we send you a big embrace from true brothers.
Bishop of São Félix do Araguaia, September, 1981