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from issue no. 09 - 2006


«I am bishop for you, with you I am Christian»

On 27 August, Feastday of Saint Monica, mother of Saint Augustine, Bishop Dom Luciano Mendes de Almeida died in Sao Paolo in Brazil, one of the best known and respected personalities of the Latin American Church, a significant figure in the Brazilian episcopate and in the democratic and social development of the country.On these pages, an evocation by Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo,president of the Brazilian Episcopal Conference

by Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo

On Wednesday, in Mariana (Minas Gerais), we said our last farewell to Monsignor Luciano Pedro Mendes de Almeida SJ, during the mass that we celebrated for his eternal rest.
Dom Luciano Mendes de Almeida

Dom Luciano Mendes de Almeida

His last words before going into coma were: « God has created us for love, and He knows what is best for us. I put my life in His hands».
In his service to the Church, Luciano Mendes, born in 1930 to a family of Catholic background in Rio de Janeiro, could rely on solid training with the Jesuits, the Order in which he became presbyter in 1958. He gained a solid philosophical, theological and humanistic basis. He did a doctorate in Thomist Philosophy at the Gregorian University in Rome. In that same period he devoted himself to the pastoral for prisoners.
Called to the bishopric by Pope Paul VI, Monsignor Luciano was destined in 1976 to the Região Belém, in Sao Paolo, as auxiliary bishop of Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns. In 1988 he was elected to the archdiocese of Mariana, where “In the name of Jesus”, his episcopal motto, he gave himself entirely for eighteen years and three months, that is up to his death.
Those who lived close to him, in the CNBB (National Conference of the Brazilian Bishops) and in the manifold activities of his episcopal office, had the clear impression of finding themselves with a man wholly impregnated by God, who lived continually in His presence. A contemplative in action.
From the Eucharist and from his nocturnal vigils, Monsignor Luciano derived the strength for his decisive and indefatigable action as bishop, as member of the direction of the CNBB, as defender of the poor. His zeal for the Church and mankind was fed by an intense life of prayer, by his emotional identification with Jesus Christ, by devotion to Mary, by pastoral charity.
Member of the executive of the CNBB for sixteen years, Monsignor Luciano was an indefatigable promoter of the unity of the episcopate and a stimulator of the pastoral renewal of our Church. A great inspirer of pastoral initiatives, he encouraged dialogue as the way to seek agreement between positions that could appear irreconcilable.
His secret lay in insisting on unity on the essential things, promoting respect for legitimate differences and exercising charity and mutual respect in all things. He had a prodigious memory and remembered the names of people whom he hadn’t seen for a long time. Everyone felt welcomed by him. He always found something good in the ideas of his interlocutors and tried to make the most of them.
A man of synthesis and of proper formulations, he knew how to articulate a multiplicity of proposals and suggestions. This charism of his was often decisive in the drafting of texts and declarations, that have marked the Church in prophetic fashion, also during the military regime and in the great debates for the defense of life from conception to natural death, of its dignity, for justice and peace, the conservation of nature and the environment, the struggle to vanquish poverty and exclusion.
Monsignor Luciano took an interest in all the questions concerning the faith, life, health and the common good, of Brazil and of the world. I highlight some of these themes, true and proper passions of his apostolic heart.
His first passion was the poor, all the poor and the sufferers, in particular the young and the street children. As auxiliary bishop of Sao Paolo, in the Região Belém, he organized hundreds of reception centers for minors and vagrants. Not rarely, in the early morning he would go out to pick up children and beggars, speak with them and bring them to one of these centers.
Allied with this passion, Dom Luciano loved the Church passionately, with a love manifested by a profound fidelity, at times pained because of misunderstandings, human frailty and limits, his and others’. He put his charisms in the service of the Church, with his active and illuminating presence in meetings and congresses, holding spiritual retreats and mediating in difficult situations.
Another of his passions was communication and the evangelization through the media. The creation of the first Catholic television channel, Rede Vida, was largely his doing and he worked many nights for it and knocked on many doors. He could not understand why the Church in Brazil, along with radio and newspapers, didn’t have its own television network also. From 1983, Monsignor Luciano wrote a weekly article in the Folha S. de Paulo newspaper.
In the tasks in which he consumed his life, Monsignor Luciano always maintained the same way of proceeding, which made him loved and admired by all those who knew him: softly spoken, firm in principles, strong in action.
It is thus that we want to remember him. God be praised for the great gift that the life and work of Monsignor Luciano Mendes de Almeida has been for the Church and for the world.

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