Hélder Câmara

Brazilian Catholic priest, archbishop of Olinda and Recife

Hélder Pessoa Câmara (7 February 1909 – 27 August 1999) was a Brazilian Catholic archbishop. A self-identified socialist, he was the Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, serving from 1964 to 1985, during the military dictatorship in Brazil. He was declared a Servant of God in 2015.

Hélder Câmara in 1974

Quotes

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  • Quando dou comida aos pobres, chamam-me de santo. Quando pergunto por que eles são pobres, chamam-me de comunista.
    • When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.
      • Cited in Zildo Rocha, Helder, O Dom: uma vida que marcou os rumos da Igreja no Brasil (Helder, the Gift: A Life that Marked the Course of the Church in Brazil), p. 53, Editora Vozes, 2000, ISBN 978-85-326-2213-6.
      • As quoted in Peace Behind Bars : A Peacemaking Priest's Journal from Jail (1995) by John Dear, p. 65.
  • If there is some corner of the world which has remained peaceful, but with a peace based on injustices—the peace of a swamp with rotten matter fermenting in its depths—we may be sure that that peace is false. Violence attracts violence. Let us repeat fearlessly and ceaselessly: injustices bring revolt, either from the oppressed or from the young, determined to fight for a more just and more human world.
    • Spiral of Violence, Sheed & Ward, London, 1975, pp. 33-4.
  • You must never give up. As long as a person is alive, somewhere beneath the ashes there is a little bit of remaining fire, and our task is [...] You must blow ... carefully, very carefully, blow ... and blow ... you’ll see if it lights up. You mustn’t worry whether it takes fire again or not. All you have to do is blow.
    • As relayed by Ivan Illich in a 1989 series of interviews with CBC's David Cayley, transcribed in Ivan Illich in Conversation, House of Anansi Press, 1992. (Older version of the transcript: "Part Moon, Part Travelling Salesman: Conversations with Ivan Illich" [1] [2])
    • Variation (cf. [3]): "You must never give up. As long as a person is alive, somewhere beneath the ashes there is a little bit of remaining fire and all our task is . . . to blow very carefully, to blow and blow. It may light up."
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