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F. J. Libermann

Jean-Paul HOCH

Reports for New Superiors' Meeting, Rome, September 2007



1. Introduction

This brief presentation does not claim to treat all the questions in which the members of the District of Alto Jurua are involved. It attempts simply to draw the general lines of some aspects of the present situation in the District, a short analysis of the conditions in the country and in the Church, and some possible paths for the District for the future. I hope that everyone will therefore be able to get a picture, from this presentation, of what it is like in Brazil and in the District of Alto Jurua.

2. The Present Situation of the District

The District of Alto Jurua covers the states of Acre and Amazonas in the Brazilian Amazon. The effective Spiritan presence here began with the Frenchman Fr. Constant Tastevin in 1911. On the 22 of May 1931, Pope Pius XI erected the Prelature of Alto Jurua; this became the diocese of Cruzeiro do Sul in 1987.

At the moment the diocese has 12 parishes. Spiritans are working in 4 of these, of which two are in Acre and two in Amazonas. The diocese has an area of 126,635 km2. In 2001, the population of the diocese was estimated to be 236,837. There is already a local clergy and there are 15 senior seminarians, 4 in theology and 11 in philosophy. The present bishop is Mgr. Mosé João Pontello, a Brazilian Spiritan consecrated in 1988.

The District has 13 confreres: 7 Germans (6 priests and 1 brother), 1 French, 1 Brazilian, with two confreres on first appointment, one from Haiti and one from Congo-Brazzaville, plus two bishops (Mgr. Mosé the present bishop and Mgr. Luis, bishop emeritus).

André Alcinéus Rulx


Aymar Golfrand Ngolé L.


Orlando Zanovelli


Alberto Arns


Mosé Pontello


Joaquim Seifert


Karlheinz Schader


Germain Bremont


Heribert Douteil  


Pedro Bermes


Teodoro Ferfers


Luís Herbst


António Cremer


3. Situation in the Country

The country is going well economically. Each day the dollar is lower than the national currency, the real. Quiet but significant developments are taking place.

From the political point of view, we are going through a moral crisis. There is a lot of corruption and each day federal police operations reveal the extent of the problem implicating many politicians. As one senator said: “… it seems that here ethics keeps its head down”. The National Congress has formed Parliamentary Enquiry Commissions to examine the question more closely. These Commissions themselves have become politicized. At present the attention of public opinion has turned on the Commission examining the aviation crisis and on the probable implication of the senate President in a corruption scandal involving an important enterprise.

The country is also experiencing an unprecedented level of violence. Many young children are involved in serious crimes. In the wonderful city of Rio de Janeiro for example, there is a virtual war between drug traffickers and the police. Many schools remain closed because of this violence and the people are appalled at this situation. In this regard there is at present a debate in the National Congress to reduce the age of legal responsibility from 18 to 16. Many bodies appose this reduction.

We who are in Amazonia feel the destructive effects of human violence against the environment: fires, illegal hunting and fishing, pollution of the streams and rivers, increasing droughts, large companies extracting wood and destroying all around them; unexpected changes in the weather with the warming of the climate are the obvious consequences. We are aware that we are opinion-makers or leaders, but we are too few to struggle successfully against ‘the son of darkness'.

4 Situation of the Church

Given this difficult reality, the Church in Brazil, through the CNBB (Episcopal Conference of Brazil) takes up a position and publicly states its opinions. However, on one occasion, a politician, responding to a journalist about criticisms made by the CNBB, replied by saying: “…it is the opinion of an isolated group”. We are living in a very secularized reality. To give another example: an important national daily newspaper started a debate about having a public holiday in honour of Brazil's first indigenous saint, Galvão. The state authorities opposed this without giving any explanation or justification and took no account whatever of society's views. All this passed off in an apparent climate of tolerance and respect. Over and above all this, there is in the country a serious drop in moral values.

Under the pretext of political neutrality, the Church is asked to keep quiet and not to make any general statements on morality which might have some political repercussions on questions such as abortion and euthanasia. There is a widespread mentality saying that it is not correct to show clear convictions and a firm faith in the Church: it seems to be politically correct for you to keep quiet about your own beliefs and faith. The direct consequence of this attitude is the very little space, sometimes none at all, given to the Brazilian bishops in the media controlled by civil society. The statements of the CNBB are rarely quoted. Some bishops write articles and think by doing so they are reaching a wider public, but this is clearly an illusion. The time has gone when the Church had a strong influence in Brazilian society. In effect, who can resist the great means of communication of the Universal Church and the Kingdom of God?

On the other hand, the various channels linked to the Church concern themselves with a private spirituality, with their own projects rather than those of the CNBB. During the last meeting of the Latin American Basic Christian Communities, for example, no Catholic television channel covered the event. Nowadays, the emotional, personalist and individualist elements of the faith are gaining the upper hand. Even some theologians of international repute are taken up by this current. Today it is enough to “light up your mobile telephone” to have an intimate conversation with God. We are passing from a spirituality of “Our Father” to one of “My Father”. There is a lack these days among the bishops of prophetic figures like Dom Helder Camara, Mgr. Pedro Casaldaligua, Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns and many others who in the past made the voice of the Church in Brazil heard throughout the world. Today, many leaders who have made strong commitments in the social expression of the faith, feel discouraged; many feel alone and abandoned.

To round up on this subject, I believe there is some hope in the air after the meeting of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, which will bring a new inspiration, and a new vision for the Church in Brazil and the rest of the continent.

5. Future Perspectives

It is in such a political, social and ecclesial context that we Spiritans in Alto Jurua find ourselves. In November 2006 we held our District Chapter. We recognized that our elderly confreres have given, and continue to give their lives for this region. Thus they continue the tradition begun in 1897 by our Spiritan forbears and continue to transmit our charism to the younger confreres, as requested at our last General Chapter (cf. Torre d'Aguilha 1.2).

During the reflections at the chapter we emphasized the following priorities and challenges:

•  reflection on the future of the District

•  improving of the relations between the Province of Brazil and the District, especially concerning formation

•  reorganization of the financial situation of the District

•  our continued contribution to the local Church

•  better organization of our community life

At the chapter we could see we are living through a time of transition: we have a large number of elderly confreres and some young recently appointed ones (10 confreres over 64 years, 1 confrere of 46, 1 of 34 and 1 of 32); while there has been a growth in clergy for the local Church (on 25 th November 2006 four new priests were ordained together with 4 diocesan deacons).

In this context we show respect to the older ones, welcome the new ones, and, like John the Baptist, learn how to pull back a little to allow the diocesan clergy to play their important role in the destiny of the Church in this region. This we do without imposing ourselves, in collaboration and above all in dialogue (SRL 19).

The chapter instructed the Council of the District to set out the criteria for a better organization of our community life. Concerning formation, we are going to re-open our seminary in 2008, with Fr. Sebastian Bonjour as the new director.

We are already in the process of re-organising our financial affairs. At the next District Assembly we will further reflect on how best to solve our financial situation. We have requested three new confreres as first appointments from the General Council. We will take up as missionary projects of the District the parishes of Nossa Senhora Aparecida at Cruzeiro do Sul and Sao Jose at Tarauaca. Looking to the future we will work towards the foundation of Amazonia, which will encompass the two Districts of Alto Jurua and Amazonia at Tefé.

In closing this brief presentation, we re-iterate our loyalty to the Superior General and his Council, in the certainty that we are working together for the Kingdom of God, in the spirit of Cor Unum et Anima Una.


Cruzeiro do Sul, 11 July 2007



Fr. Orlando Zanovelli

District Superior




Reports for New Superiors' Meeting, Rome, September 2007

Alto jurua
Brazil Central
Cabo Verde
The English Province

Missionary Priorities


Some precisions regarding the election of a Superior of a Circumscription or a Superior of a Region

To Superiors of circumscriptions and those in charge of second-cycle formation communities

To all confreres to whom the Superior General, with the consent of his Council, has given a first appointment

Superiors of Circumscriptions Directors of Houses of Formation

Some Precisions Regarding the Election of a Superior of a Circumscription and a Superior of a Region


Preparation for the next Enlarged General Council





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