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Dom Helder Camera

a friend of the poor



“Dom. Hélder, during all his life, had as light to follow the fight in defence of those less favoured one, of those excluded, of those forgotten. He acted, not only with his words, but also with concrete actions through organisms that he founded, projects that he executed, campaigns that he promoted.
He was accused of being protectionist, but how not to be it, when seeing his people in poverty, suffering of one of the largest and more humiliating privations that a human being can suffer: lacks of food.
Certainly, if more people had this “protectionist” thought, the hunger situation and poverty in the world would have today a different reality.
His concern didn’t stop thereabout, and contradicting those that accused him of being protectionist, he always looked for different and effective forms of becoming aware the people of their situation, of their duties, but also of their rights, their powers to decide with relationship to their lives, while free people, and to collect of whom should be collected, while citizens, in a search of a world socially fair.
Difficult to summarise and even gathering everything that Dom. Hélder Câmara has done in his whole life.
We tried, in a brief way, to tell you a little, with the promise of always be bringing new things, unpublished, regarding this man’s called Dom. Hélder life”.

Érico Theodorovitz

How to serve You
if I only have leftovers to present to You?
Let me look for a while
in my neighbour’s house
for a meal
poor because he is poor,
but untouched and clean
as I know that he has…
(While I spoke
without worrying to what I said
my God rushed to my
poor plates
as if he was starving…
I just had the comfort
of having some cold water
for the thirsty lips
of my Lord…)
Rio de Janeiro, 01/05/53.


If I could
I would leave dropping money
in the poor pockets
fallen of fatigue and of hunger
on banks of abandoned gardens.
If I could
I would leave filling of rest and of dreams
the unslept nights of the desperate ones.
If I could
– oh! if I could –
it would drive away of the earth the distrust
that tarnish the clearest glances
and turns cloudy the cleanest horizons…
I don’t know what I say, Lord!
If you leave on earth
the poverty, the insomnia and the distrust
it is because they translate a message
ciphered for the men
and they don’t enter just by chance
in the life of anybody.
Rio de Janeiro, 04/25/48.


More than in the common of the days
I looked the most I could
at the faces of the Poor,
consumed by the hunger,
squashed by the humiliations,
and in them I discovered Your face
Resuscitated Christ!
Recife, 03/30/86.


Your Son
one with you and with the Holy Spirit –
complained about thirst to the Samaritan
and still today tunes through the heights
I distressing cry of the Calvary
that had as answer
vinegar and bile…
And yourself, Father,
is gotten tired of beating on ingrate doors
asking for a piece of bread
that deceived your hunger…
Rio de Janeiro, 02/21/52.

“Even if the largest anguish visits you and accompany you, don’t let it reflects on your face. Agitated and sad world needs that you take with you your peace and your happiness “.

“Only the great humiliations take us to the last recess of ourselves, there where the interior sources bath us with light, with happiness and with peace “.

“I think is a charm, Lord, that your creatures, left directly from your hands, – birds and the wind – carry from plant to plant, from tree to tree the love seeds”.

“The love is the perfume of the souls “.

“In front of a necklace beautiful as a dream I admired, above all, the thread that united the stones and immolated itself anonymous so that all could be one “.

“The blow of the love will make to increase the talent “.

“Hope is to believe in the adventure of the love playing with the men, is to jump in to the darkness trusting God “.

“The law consists in loving God and loving the neighbour. Well, who loves the neighbour has already executed half of the law “.

“Does the people weigh you? Don’t carry them on the shoulders. Take them in the heart “.

“It is difficult to give. It is necessary to conquer through to love the right of giving “.

“The hunger of the others condemn the civilisation of the ones that are not hungry “.

“If I give food to the poor, they call me saint. If I ask why the poor have not been eating, they call me of communist “.

“It is young who has a reason to live “.

“Happy is who understands that is necessary to change a lot to be always the same “.

“Do not be satisfied in accepting: receive. And only the ones who give themselves know how to receive”.

“Better than the bread is its partition, its division “!

“Do with your soul what in life was given to you to do. But you do not ever forget to be integrated in the great plans of God “.

“In the poverty, just exists the indispensable, but it does exist. In the misery, not even the indispensable exists “.

“Poverty yet, misery, no “.

“The great fight of ours is the Misery. And do not say that it is invincible “.

“Why not to take advantage of the arrival of a New Millennium to lift up our World against the Misery”?

“Who gives to the poor lends to God. And God pays thousand for one! Million for one “!

“The only legitimate war is the one that is declared against the underdevelopment and the misery”.

“The Year 2.000 without Poverty is, before everything, a impulse to the optimism, a faith in which the man, when he wants, is capable to do, and God helps “!

“The anti-love is the selfishness, it is the closing in itself that turns impossible any encounter with who ever that is. Who thinks and proclaims that loves too much, loves too little”.

“To beyond, a lot of the individual selfishness, of the class selfishness, of the national selfishness, it is necessary to hug, to smile, to work ”

“I don’t believe in the violence, I don’t believe in the hate, I don’t believe in time of changing the mentality “.

“Oh! If the thirsty of surpassing – common to all of the steering wheels – took steering wheels and passengers to learn how to surpass themselves.

“I wish to be loyal, discreet and silent as my shade “.

“It is enough that a button miss its spot so that the failure is total “.

“One of my longings of arriving to the infinite is the hope that, at least from there, the parallel ones may meet “!

“The men wear out so much in words that cannot understand the silence of God. Don’t let yourself be teared between yesterday and tomorrow. Live always and just the today of God

The whole work of Dom. Hélder is like a building built on the rock of the Gospel.
Of his writings, his poems, his pastoral letters, the speeches, his life, his pilgrim trips, his sentence and his indefatigable work, compose the unisons structure of this construction that transcends the limits of the own Church.
It cannot be separated, unless if it is for sacrifice to the didacticism, his several moments and his several actions. Therefore, Abrahamic Minorities have everything to do with the II Vatican, that for its turn is tied to Medellin, to Puebla, to the Non-violence, to the Human Rights, to MEB, to the Siblings’ Meeting, to the Hope Operation, to Rio, to Olinda and Recife, to Frei Francisco’s Works, to the poor, to Christ.
The Justice and Peace Action gets inserted in this construction. It was born in the peak of the repression and it aimed to articulate and to guide small groups in such a way that, using the “violence of the peaceful ones”, the “Liberation Moral Pressure”, the essence of the Peaceful Resistance, could be organised and resist to all oppression force.
The censorship was terrible.
The care of Dom. so that the small ones didn’t succumb to the torturers’ of the regime claws, nor that the movement would not get radical in the sense of the armed violence and once again the small ones paid the bill, got revealed in all the documents of the Justice and Peace Action, where focus with examples, concrete situations: they are religious working in sub-human areas, sometimes they are hard-working in injustice situation, sometimes they are the Council of Inhabitants and their people’s problems, students, artists, political, foreigners, press professionals, shepherds, priests, technicians and even military.
Starting from there suggestions of how to act are given, trying to take to the knowledge and to win influential and sensitive people’s adhesion to the cause in subject. It was the work of the ants gnawing the mud feet of the idol-monster. Later we can say to our sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, that we lived together with a truly prophet among us. This is the largest legacy than this time

A deep conscience of the humanity’s problems, always in the perspective of the action of God between the men and their intermediates, marks the attitude of Dom. in front of these challenges.
There is not a “Dom. Hélder’s Church” as many proclaim, or for admiration (the great majority) or for critic (inside and outside of the Church). Actually the thinking and the acting oh him is radically inserted in the oldest apostolic tradition and of the Saints Priests that place the service to the poor in first place, following an explicit recommendation of the own Jesus. Starting from Vatican II, the Church assumed the defence of the Human Rights.
Although these #8220;Rights” have been promulgated by an international civil institution (UN), it is with no doubt, the Church that introduce them, in the purest council spirit.
Dom. Hélder, inside of this context, sees clearly the hand of God in the elaboration of these principles. Of there on all his life, his preaching, his pasturing, it will be in the intransigent defence of these inalienable rights of the men and women.
Because of this attitude he was pursued, calumniated, defamed, but the transparency of his actions in partnership with his life, made him won and to continued winning all of the obstacles, winning the ” good combat “.
The scandalous attitudes, always presents, of the rich countries, promoting a richness accumulation, promoting the arms race, the poor spoliation, the destruction of the natural resources, scandalised yesterday, and they scandalise today and always. It was in this indignation movement that Dom. always acted, denouncing to the whole world, organising groups, articulating entities, elaborating projects.
And since the abyss that separates the poor ones from the rich ones gets deeper and deeper, also, the lessons and the evangelical actions transmitted by him become more current and indispensable.

Placed in the same level of Martin Luther King and of Gandhi, D. Helder determined himself deeply to establish the doctrine of the Non-violence and, consequently, the movement in all Latin America. For him it is the Christian attitude the deeper and most coherent attitude inside of all and any system of a human relationship with conflict. It was in the peak o the Declaration of the Human Rights, exactly 30 years ago, as well as the centennial of Mahatma Ganhi’s birth.
The attitude of the Non-violence (Ahimsa) should never be understood as a cowardliness before the unfair situations or even a resistance type to take the power (it is waited with it that there is a peaceful transfer of the power for the common good). Gandhi thought was worse than the violence just the apathy. It would be easier to convert a militant that preached and used violent means than one that preached the passive resistance.
The force of the Non-violence it is the liberation moral pressure. D. Helder imagined and organised in a such way this movement, in a concrete way, that finally he gave name to the movement, here in Latin America: “Justice and Peace Action”. He commended that, among other things, each bishop would try to convert to the movement, at least 15% of his priests and these for their turn 15% of theirs lay ones, making them assuming their principles courageously, also signing a registration book with address and everything else and committing themselves to assume the divulgation gather with other ten people.
They also committed themselves to be arrested with the whole group in the case of the repression arrested any member because of their cause. D. Hélder always said: “to arrest 1, 2 or 4 is easy, but 40 or 50 nobody arrests “…
There were an entire structure of support and reflection, in all the levels and the Commission of Justice and Peace was summoned to give the whole logistics support to the movement. It were the Abrahamic, willingness group of men and women that waited against every despair, the privileged carriers of these seeds of Christian courage, because according to own Mahatma, Christ was the largest apprentice of the resistance for the Non-violence.


Gabriela Mistral said certain time:
“Where has a tree to plant, try to plant it!
Where has a mistake to correct, look for correcting it!
Where has a task that everybody refuses, try to assume it”.
Planting a tree! It gives us such a happiness to contemplate a tree that our hands planted! And when, then, are trees as the hose, that crosses the years, it brings happiness just on thinking that the tree we planted – in a way our daughter – will continue offering shade, fruits and shelter for the little birds when we are already gone of this ground of the men.
With relationship to correcting mistake, it is a difficult art. Who does like to be corrected? It is necessary that who wandered feels that who corrects doesn’t come against, doesn’t come with rudeness, doesn’t come with the face of who doesn’t wander and of who is a master and was born to correct and to teach… It is necessary that who wandered feels friendship in who corrects, feels that the only intention is to help, without pretence of who feels larger or better…
Who doesn’t see himself, several times, in front of tasks that nobody hugs, and does it seem humiliating and inglorious?
The price to pay to make what nobody cheers up to do, which practically causes repugnance to everyone, is the total absence of seeming a hero, a different and extraordinary creature…
Where has a tree to plant, try to plant it!
Where has a mistake to correct, look for correcting it!
Where has a task that everybody refuses, try to assume it.
Everything in the largest simplicity, as who just executes the own duty and gets happy of being able to help…


The Father in Heaven is so simple, so friend, so Father,
that we can speak to him in the greater intimacy.
I guarantee, for example, that he really likes a confident prayer like this:
Father, bend forward on the earth and smell the perfume of million and million of flowers, that open up on the men’s ground…
Listen to the quaver of million and million of birds that, I am sure, would cheer the own sky!
Listen to the pulsing of million and million of human hearts, marked by the weakness, but not properly by the wickedness.
“They don’t know what they do”, says your Son and our Brother Jesus Christ.
It will be enough this so that your predilection by the grain of sand that is the earth gets accentuated, where among million and million of worlds your beloved Son made himself our Brother!
It would be very easy to prolong this prayer, invoking new reasons so that the Father
would have an special predilection for the minuscule earth, not easy of being discovered among million and million of stars in a magnificent ballet, in the out space…
I could, for example, to increase:
Drive, for some seconds, your divine glance not so much on the oceans that to us get to remind the Infinite…
Contemplate, for an instant, the humble streams and the falls of water that don’t get tired of singing your praises…
And if the human weakness is been risking of causing you sadness if the sadness was possible to you!
– and if the human ingratitude lifted the danger of raising your cholera – as if the serenity and kindness loss fit in you, forgive the trust of filial suggestion:
contemplate, from earth, a sunshine,
or a sunset, or a night loaded of stars!
Still more you will confirm yourself in your predilection for this poor and minuscule ground of the men!


There are delightful rhymes, that only grow with the time:
Bell, village’s heart
Heart, bell of us
One to feel when it beats
Other to beat when it feels…
It is delightful when, in a small city, we wake up listening the bell of the Church, calling for the Saint Mass and calling for the work!…
And where we still listen the beating of the bell, we listen, also, the singing of the rooster.
Rhyme, also, that comes from the deep human experience and it will always continue new and always true it is:
It seems lie, it seems but it is patent true we never forget of who forgets us.
My mother used to say, in a “home” language!
” Who wants do not get embarrassed “.
When receiving heavy ingratitudes, you can take resolutions, you can do swears…
At the first sign or of the well-loved ingrate, the resolutions and promises disarrange…
Who doesn’t have in the ear and in the heart the celebrated rhyme!
If this street was mine I would order to tile only with stones of brilliant for my honey pass by…
In a carnival that is already going a little far away, the people sang a fineness of the sun, of which only doubts who doesn’t know how the sun is capable of admirable fineness…
Brunette, Brunette!
At night, you will go out for a walk
The sun already asked to the moon
to change shifts
to watch you pass by…
Elisete Cardoso’s wonderful voice, after remembering that the distance doesn’t exist and that all great Love is only very big if is sad, says a word that I would like to apply to God, but only by half (the other part would be an absurdity!)
Elisete makes the Boyfriend and girlfriend to say:
“There is no You without me and I don’t exist without You”.
I can say peacefully: ” I don’t exist without You”(and God smiles when we treat him affectionately and we have the incredible and adorable freedom to call him of You).
Absurdity would be to affirm: “There is no You without me”.
Let me repeat, full of faith: “I don’t exist without You”.


So dark still!
And the hours dragging themselves…
There won’t be danger
of the Night
to amend with the Night?
All roosters,
that wake up the Dawn,
Higher still!
It is terrible,
when the own Dawn
doesn’t wake up
and doesn’t wake us up!
I feel sorry for who always lives in the city and in the urban areas, in apartments or houses without back yard and never more, never again they wake up with the song of the rooster!
For who has the mission of helping to wake up. Brothers and sisters in turn of themselves; for who has the mission of helping to wake up communities, cities, countries and even worlds, the rooster, with its song, is a beautiful model!
The rooster wakes up, faithfully, on time of waking up the dawn. And it salutes the first shines of the dawn. Its song gets too much cheerful, too much full to the proportion that the sky already sets on fire of light. When the own sun begins to appear, the rooster feels happy: it was faithful, it executed its mission!
Waking up the Dawn and greeting the sun, it helped the human creature to retake their daily labours…
I like to listen the immature roosters, which’s voice didn’t reach its fullness yet. Even so, they take a risk.
They try to face possible failures, as price for tomorrow they will be awakening of the dawn…
I like to listen old roosters that, already without the fullness of the voice, they still insist on to wake up the morning and to greet the light.
The “wakers” of consciences, the “wakers” of human creatures, of groups, of people, are they as faithful as the roosters?
And are they as happy as the roosters in their “waker” mission?. .
When is about waking up consciences and human hearts, the human “wakers” got the maximum of saying the exact word and of expressing it in a skilled and convincing way…
To reach the spirit, to obtain the conversion escapes from whole to our human power: it is private work of the Holy Spirit. it is already too much honour to prepare the roads for the final action of the Spirit of God.


What is a glance? The question interests us because our program is called “A glance on the City”.
It is not enough to open the eyes to look at…
When, after 10 or 15 days of rain, starts a drought that passes of a serenade, of two, the north-eastern looks at the sky…
Unquiet glance, but still of hope and even of prayer! And when the sky is cloudy, darkness, threatening rain, who is from the South is capable of thinking that the weather is ugly: the north-eastern thinks it is beautiful, because, who knows, it will bring the expected rain…
When a mother sees herself in front of the son’s first smile, the glance that she throws it is almost a song of happiness, of join and of thanksgivings…
When, in the bus station, the wife sees the husband to proceed in a bus to São Paulo, the farewell and prayer glance so that everything goes well, is so that him, as so much wants, finds an employment that allows him, as before, to bring his family…
Who lifts the handkerchief that covers the face of a loved person, face that it will be seen again only in the sky, the glance is of pain, of painful farewell, from who stays with a broke heart…
When two youths are feeling the love to wake up among them, and they look at themselves, the glance sings, dances!
When the people from Ceará get tired of waiting rain and decide to take the bus, the glance that he throws to his ranch it is of breaking our heart.
A glance that is delightful is of the child that is discovering, seeing everything as if never nobody had seen and to each instant: Looks at that! Looks at that!
When the adulteress woman adulteress saw her accusers almost throwing at her, in front of Christ’s word: ” Who has not sinned, throw the first stone “, the glance that she did throw at Christ was of gratefulness, of hope and gratitude.
When Christ saw the rich youth to leave, because he didn’t have courage of to release the own richness and to follow him, the master’s glance was of deep sadness, because, in that young, he saw all the ones that suddenly feel involved and tied to the money.
Pedro’s glance when, for the third time, Jesus asked him if he loved him, was of sadness because the Master seemed to doubt of his love, but it was also of who asks help, recognising the own weakness and believing deeply that Jesus could, with the largest happiness, reinforce the love…
A glance on the City! When Jesus cried on Jerusalem, how it should be sad his glance of Man-God!…
And when, of the highness of Cross, our Brother and Saviour, Jesus Christ raised his eyes, his glance didn’t contemplate only the small group that was in Calvary, nor only delimited at far the City. His glance contemplated the millenniums, it contemplated all the creatures from everywhere and from every time…
Who does want to help me in the daily effort of a glance on the city? Is the city just Recife? Is it the Great Recife? Is it also, in a special way, Olinda?… Is it the Northeast? Is it Brazil? Is it the world?

Objective of life of the Dom. Hélder Câmara, the eradication of the hunger and the elimination of the poverty were always a dream since his first days of priest involved with the contemporary Man’s social problem. In 1990, in a direct way, Dom. Hélder Câmara begins the materialisation of his most cultivated dream, of his life ideal, starting the campaign. In a realistic plenty way, according to himself he admits, the Campaign doesn’t intend to end definitively the poverty, but to guarantee basic conditions of survival for the whole terrestrial population, specially the Brazilian, having as philosophy the thought that there is enough technology in the world to feed everybody, in abundance. According to Dom., “it would be enough if this idea stayed in a while in the head of the chiefs “.
One of the sections of the Campaign works in an understanding project of medium and long period, anyone being able to with a little, the group doing a lot, cooling the lacks of nutrition levels of million, that are also children of a same Father. For that, two action forms were established: the one of accusations, to provoke sensibility, and the one of having proposes, to enlarge the participation of the society. The Year 2000 without Poverty Campaign tries to remove of the human being the inertia feeling before the misfortune of his fellows, introducing in the man the understanding that everybody is human being that thinks, that feels pain, that has feelings and dreams, nobody deserves to be discriminated of the History. Thanks to the efforts developed by thousands of collaborators, the whole world population, being totally leaning by the Vatican today shares the dream of Dom. Hélder Câmara.
As Dom Helder Camera (Latin American Catholic priest) said, ‘When you give food to the hungry, they call you a saint. But when you ask why the hungry have no food, they call you a communist.’

Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.

It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in love; stay in love,
and it will decide everything.