Brazilian Catholic activist urges Church to forget about power

Chico (Francisco) Whitaker, who is visiting Australia for the New Pentecost Forum, has said that the "main mission of the church in a democracy is to serve society", and not make a bid for political power in its own right.

Mr Whitaker, a Brazilian activist and thinker best known as one of the "founding fathers" of the massive World Social Forum civil society gatherings, believes that the church is well placed to be the conscience in a democracy.

"The church is not a political party. She does not fight for political power in the society. She works at another level: consciences", he says.

"The church must try to awake everybody to the dignity of each and of all - as subject of each own destiny - as well as to the possibility of building fraternity and peace among human beings as the final goal of all societies, and to the need of engagement of everybody in this search."

Mr Whitaker believes the church could be an example to society by building a "real fraternal community". In such a community, "those having more power will be at the bottom serving those who have less power, placed at the top", he says.

"We need to use the power each one have as a service to others, hoping those who have more power would do the same."

Mr Whitaker has a long history of involvement in Catholic social action in Brazil, working along side such social justice pioneers as Bishop Helder Camara and Paulo Freire. He is currently members of the Executive Secretariat of the Brazilian Catholic Bishops' Justice and Peace Commission and International Secretariat of the World Social Forum.

Mr Whitaker is currently in Melbourne for the first part of a regional "New Pentecost" tour involving Australia, New Zealand and Thailand. His main engagement in Sydney will be on Pentecost Sunday, 15 May, at a forum called "A Church that Won't be Silenced!" at the Australian Catholic University, Strathfield Campus.

World Forum founder says church must shun temptation for power (New Pentecost Forum 13/5/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
New Pentecost Forum
Justice and Peace Commission of the Brazilian Catholic Bishops' Conference
World Social Forum
Chico Whitaker, 'WSF: What is it really about?' OECD Observer, April 2005

Columban call to observe World Debt Day on Monday (CathNews 12/5/05)

Chico Whitaker in Sydney on World Debt Day (World Peace Society)

13 May 2005