Faced with the second round of the presidential elections in Brazil, more than sixty Catholic bishops from that country gathered under the title “Bishops of Dialogue for the Kingdom”, issued a statement in which they point out that the elections between Lula da Silva and Jair Bolsonaro “we face a dramatic challenge” before which “there is no place for neutrality when it comes to deciding on two country projects, one democratic and the other authoritarian; one committed to the defense of life, starting from the impoverished, another committed to an ‘economy that kills’ (quoting words of Pope Francis); one that takes care of education, health, work, food, culture, another that despises public policies, because it despises the poor”.
The members of the Catholic hierarchy who signed a document entitled “The seriousness of the second round of the 2022 elections”, identify themselves as “bishops of the Catholic Church from various regions of Brazil, in deep communion with Pope Francis and his magisterium and in full communion with the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB) which, in the exercise of its evangelizing mission, always stands in defense of the little ones, of justice and peace”.
In the midst of a scenario of strong debates between the candidates in which they have also resorted to frequent appeals to religious issues, the bishops make a highly critical analysis of President Bolsonaro’s management. “We are witnesses – they say – that the current government, which is seeking re-election, turned its back on the most needy population, mainly during the pandemic period.” Among other issues, the flexibility of carrying weapons, the neglect of environmental problems and the lack of access to quality education for all are denounced. Picking up a phrase from another CNBB document, the bishops affirm that “hunger is certainly the most cruel and criminal (of carelessness), because food is an inalienable right.” And it is conclusively stated thatlife is not a priority for this government.”
There is also a reference to Bolsonaro’s abusive use of religion and its symbols. “The head of government and his followers -they say-, mainly politicians and religious, they abused the name of God to legitimize their actions and also use them for electoral purposes”. They also cite a collective document of the Episcopal Conference in which it was pointed out that “religious manipulation always distorts the values of the Gospel and takes the focus off the real problems that need to be discussed and faced in our Brazil.”
In clear reference to the current president, they point out that “when he said “God above all” the president offended women, made fun of the people who died asphyxiated, in addition to not showing any compassion with the almost 700 thousand lives lost as a result of covid-19 and with the 33 million hungry people in your country.” They also remember that Brazil had left the hunger map in 2014, “for the success of the social programs of previous governments”. In practice, the bishops say, “this appeal to God is a lie, because it does not comply with what Jesus presented as the most important of the commandments: to love God above all things and your neighbor as yourself”: And also rescuing words from the Gospel, the document recalls that “whoever says he loves God, but hates his brother is a liar”.
Not content with this, the bishops point out that the speeches and measures that promote people to arm themselves and the elimination of opponents “are in contradiction with the fifth commandment, which says “you shall not kill”, as well as with the Social Doctrine of Church that proposes disarmament and maintains that “the enormous increase in weapons represents a serious threat to stability and peace.”
Going into another topic, the religious affirm that “We lived four years under the reign of lies, secrecy and false information”. And they add that the fake news they became “an ‘official’ form of government communication with the people”.
Without mentioning Lula by name, the bishops affirm that “Christians have the capacity to analyze which of the two disputed projects is closer to humanist principles and integral ecology.” And that for this it is enough to analyze “with data and numbers” and ask oneself “which of the candidates values health, education and the overcoming of poverty and misery the most” and who reduced the budget for health, education and ended up with social programs. “Who cared for nature, mainly in the Amazon, and who encouraged the burning of forests, illegal timber trafficking and mining on indigenous lands,” the religious question.
In conclusion, the bishops stress that “it is not a question of a religious dispute, nor of a mere partisan option, nor of choosing the perfect candidate, but of a decision on the future of our country, of democracy and of the people. ”.
Coming out at the crossroads of possible criticism, the Catholic bishops warn that “The Church has no party, nor will it ever have one” but “it will always be on the side of justice and peace, of truth and solidarity, of love and equality, of religious freedom and the secular state, social inclusion and good living for all”. For this reason, they say, “its ministers cannot fail to take sides when it comes to defending human life and nature”.
For its part, the Social Pastoral Commission of the CNBB, in a letter to all the people of Brazil that bears the signature of its president, Bishop José Valdeci Mendes, also spoke before the second round of elections, expressing its repudiation of “the use of religion to stimulate hatred, violence and the division of families and society” and underlining that “justice, peace, fraternity and compassion are the ethical references of Christianity” and must be “the guiding axes of good government”. In the same line of reflection, the Social Pastoral calls for “taking care of our democracy through the vote that guarantees the Good Living of the Peoples.”