segunda-feira, 23 de março de 2015

Dom Vital, The Bishop Who Resisted The Enemies of the Church

The Friar

D. Friar Vital Maria Gonçalves was born on November 27, 1844 in the city of Fogo (PB)* in Brazil. At that time, the city of Fogo still belonged to the state of Pernambuco (PE). His parents were Antonio Golçalves de Oliveira and Antonia Albina de Albuquerque.
D. Vital was baptized on January 2, 1846 in the chapel of Engenho Bonito, with the name of Antonio Gonçalves de Oliveira Junior, in the city of Goiana (PE) by Father Francisco Santana.
On February 2, 1861 Friar Vital entered in the seminary of Olinda (PE). On October 1, 1862 he went studying in the seminary of Saint Sulpice in Paris, France, and on August 15, 1863 he received the habit of Saint Francis and the name of Friar Vital Maria de (“from”) Pernambuco.
On October 19, 1864 he issued the temporary profession in the Capuchin Order, continuing his studies at the Convent of Perpignan, France.
On July 8, 1866 he received de Minor Orders in the Capuchin Monastery of Toulouse, France. On June 6, 1868 the Friar Vital received the diaconate and on August 2 of that year he was ordained priest at Immaculate Conception Church of Matabiau, by D. Desprez, Archbishop of Toulouse, France.
On October, 1868 Friar Vital returned to Brazil where he visited the cities of Recife, Itambé (PE) São Paulo (SP), Maceió (AL) and Rio de Janeiro (RJ).

The Bishop

On May 21, 1871, Friar Vital de Oliveira was appointed as Bishop of Olinda (PE) by an imperial decree, with preconization given by the Holy See on December 22. At first, he humbly declined the nomination, but on January 23, 1872 he received a letter from Pope Pius IX urging him to accept the episcopate. Because of the words of the Holy Father, Father Vital decided to accept the appointment, being consecrated as Bishop in the Cathedral of São Paulo, by D. Pedro Maria de Lacerda, Bishop of Rio de Janeiro on March 17, 1872. He was 27 years old and was the first Capuchin Bishop of Brazil.

D. Friar Vital arrived in Recife on May 22, 1872 where he was received with a solemn Te Deum in the Church of the Holy Spirit. Two days later, on May 24, he festively entered in the Episcopal city of Olinda and took possession in the Cathedral of San Salvador, with the presence of D. Antonio de Macedo Costa, Bishop of the State of Pará.

Simple and humble as he was, Dom Vital asked to the Soledad Palace where he would live to be prepared in the simplest way possible. He also refused the slaves put at his service, always saying that all Christians were equal for God. At that time, the slavery had not been abolished in Brazil yet. He was always willing to meet anyone without distinction in his own residence.
Many times his bed was just a simple mat; he slept little and spent hours at night in deep prayer. Dom Vital also used to carry with him, a cilice and an iron belt.

D. Vital, Bishop of Olinda

* Abbreviations of some mentioned states of Brazil:
AL: Alagoas;
BA: Bahia;

PA: Paraíba;
PE: Pernambuco;
RJ: Rio de Janeiro;
SP: São Paulo;
RS: Rio Grande do Sul.

The Persecution of D. Vital by Freemasonry

Note: the following text was extracted from the publication "Dom Vital e a Maçonaria (D. Vital and the Freemasonry)" of November/December 1981 in the Catholic magazine "Permanência".

The struggle between the Church and Freemasonry in Brazil became shortly after (the consecration of Bishop Dom Vital), due to an incident in Rio de Janeiro. At that time in spite of several condemnations against Freemasonry by the Popes, there were many priests who belonged to Masonic lodges. Also many notable men of that time were Masons, some by simple ignorance, others, while having their names linked to the history of Brazil, Masonic beliefs and evil spirit against the Church. 

In March 1872, shortly before being elected bishop D. Vital, there was a party of Freemasonry in commemoration of the Free Womb Law [law that gave freedom to all slaves who were born from that date], obtained by the Prime Minister of the Emperor, Chairman (head of government), the Viscount of Rio Branco, father of the Baron of Rio Branco, really capable man with a remarkable intelligence and also 33rd Degree of the Masonic Lodge in Lavradio street. One of the speakers of that party was a priest, Father Almeida Martins. The bishop of Rio de Janeiro, D. Pedro Maria de Lacerda, outraged, called him in particular to tell that he could not be a priest and a Mason at the same time. But the Father refused any weighting. So the Bishop suspended his orders. Freemasonry considered it as an attack and made a great meeting that was chaired by the Head of Government, the Viscount of Rio Branco. They decided to start a major campaign against the Church and to the campaign  joined the Masons of a dissident wing. They collected funds and began the attacks. They founded numerous newspapers for the campaign: in Rio (de Janeiro), the newspaper "A Família" (The Family); in São Paulo state, the "Correio Paulistano" (Paulistian Mail); in Porto Alegre city, "O Maçon" (The Mason); in Pará state, the "Pelicano" (Pelican); in Ceará state, "A Fraternidade" (The Brotherhood); in Rio Grande do Norte state, "A Luz" (The Light); in Alagoas state, "The Labarum" and in Recife, "A Família Universal" (The Universal Family) and "A Verdade" (The Truth).

So when D. Vital arrived in Recife, he found active masonic newspapers that every day tried to hit him with taunts and insults. The bishop did not answer, of course. On July 27, they began to tease him. First they announced that there would be a Mass of thanksgiving in a lodge. Because of the secretive prohibition of the bishop, no priest dared to celebrate it. They asked Masses for unrepentant deceased Masons and, of course, no priest accepted. Finally, before the silence of the bishop who did not answer the provocations in the days 22,23,24,25 and October 26, the newspaper “A Verdade” published a series of articles against the Holy Eucharist, the virginity and the divine Motherhood of Our Lady and the Immaculate Conception. And to better achieve the target, a religious catholic brotherhood (several were infiltrated by Masons) elected the author of those articles as its president. Finally, on November 21, Bishop Vital published a protest against the attacks on our dogmas urging people to protest as well. Later he made a public sermon in the cathedral, repeating the protest and accusing Freemasonry. The newspaper, to mock him, published a list of affiliated priests and canons of the local Freemasonry. The bishop called them one by one, in particular, and got the publicly recantation of all and their outputs of the lodges, but two of them did not do that. The newspaper then published the names of presidents, secretaries and treasurers of catholic brotherhoods who also belonged to the lodges. The bishop did the same, but he was countered by the obstinacy of several brotherhoods who refused to abide him. Only two brotherhoods accepted and the others refused or neither were to the interview. D. Vital tried with mutual friends the submission of the brotherhoods to his (legitimate) authority. He got nothing. Then he decided to send a first warning to canonical vicars assistants of the brotherhoods to exhort the Masons brothers to renounce Freemasonry or resign. The brotherhoods refused accepting this. He sent two more warnings that were rejected. The bishop then launched an prohibition on the brotherhoods "Santo Antônio" (St. Anthony) and "Espírito Santo" (Holy Ghost), preventing the holding of Masses or any religious in their chapels. Masons began to promote street riots. First they closed chapels, churches and tabernacles stealing files or keys. D. Vital published a "Carta Pastoral Contra As Ciladas da Maçonaria" (Pastoral Letter Against the Wiles of Freemasonry). In it, in addition to recounting the pernicious activities of the organization, he noted that there is no difference between Freemasonry in Brazil and in Europe, which all follow the same plans. He prohibited the reading of the newspaper "A Verdade" and excommunicated the not abjured Freemasons. 

Meanwhile, also the bishop of Belém city in Pará state, D. Antonio Macedo Costa, was fighting Freemasonry. The news about it, coming to Rio (de Janeiro), caused huge shock. The Government made a reunion, after know that the brotherhoods had been interdicted and also because of the Pastoral Letter. The Government itself, certainly its head, the Viscount of Rio Branco and his Mason helpers, ordered to say to the brotherhoods that they should appeal to the Central Government with a then current, "appeal to the Crown", despite Brazilian law then say that in strictly religious causes the bishops were submitted to the Pope and only to the Pope could be presented appeals against his decisions. Nevertheless, one of the brotherhoods had presented the appeal to the Government. The Emperor Pedro II, whose mentality was liberal, did not like the bishop's attitude that in a letter to a State Councillor, he pointed out the illegality of the use of Crown and said simply that he had his duty and was a bishop only submitted to the Pope in religious matters. Historians think that without support of the Emperor, the Viscount of Rio Branco would have retreated, but with this support he moved on. Before publish his Pastoral Letter, D. Vital had written to the Pope asking what to do about the situation that he described. The Pope replied with a "Breve" (short letter) dated May 29, approving the acts of D. Vital and giving him powers to face the situation. Before the "use of the Crown" by the brotherhood, the Government sent a warning to D. Vital ordering him to lift the ban on consequence of being sued. The bishop responded calmly and, after presenting his respects to the Emperor and his respect for the Government, he added that one must obey God rather than men and received on the same day, the Government, the notice to suspend the interdict , and from the Pope, his "Breve" approving their actions. Thus, as a bishop, he could not comply with the notice. He (the Bishop) explained that it was not a disobedience, but consciousness of duty. Then the bishop suspended the orders of the Dean of the diocese that was a Mason and that refused to left Freemasonry. The Masons then made a public show of support to the Dean. So they invaded, vandalized and loot the chapel of the Jesuit College, which was full of faithful who was celebrating the month of May. They broke the pulpit, the confessionals, frames, images, beating on the faithful and stole valuables. They disenable then the Catholic newspaper, "O Católico" (The Catholic) and "A União" (The Union) assaulting employees. They attacked the Jesuits, some of which were stabbed and one of whom died later. After, they broke the Colégio Santa Dorotéia (Saint Dorothy School) and then they went to the palace of the bishop. The bishop being warned, sent to illuminate the whole palace and stood before the gang who was at the gate. They did not dare to invade the palace and so they were gone. Only after that, the police arrived. D. Vital published a "Breve", Quamquam Dolores communicating to the other bishops of Brazil what happened and getting them all full support, especially the bishop of Rio de Janeiro and the Bishop of Belém city in Pará state. The Government sent a warning raising the interdict of the brotherhood, which is obviously ridiculous, since no priest would accept it. 
The Government canceled the payment of the salaries of priests who at that time were supported with public funds and also, they canceled the salaries of the seminary's teachers priests. Finally the Government ordered processing D. Vital for disobedience and contempt. Then came the order to arrest the bishop and send him to Rio de Janeiro to be tried by the Supreme Court. A judge, the Chief of Police and a police coronel went to the palace of Recife to arrest the bishop. When the judge entered the palace and knocked on the bishop's door, D. Vital came out fully vested, with miter and crosier, and so he was arrested. But when they reached the street, the police saw that the crowd was cheering the bishop and so the police men were afraid. They put him in a car and took him to the Navy Yard where he got stuck waiting for the ship that would take him to Rio de Janeiro. In Salvador, they carried him to other ship to come to Rio de Janeiro no being expected.
When he arrived in Rio de Janeiro, he was soon imprisoned at the arsenal, but with all due respect and comfort. It should be said that, everywhere in Recife, Salvador and Rio de Janeiro, multiplied the demonstrations of appreciation, protests and honor to him, by other bishops, clergy and the people. Then the Government asked the ambassador of Brazil in London, Marquis of Boulder, trying to get from the Pope a statement against the bishop. The ambassador, skillful and insinuating, told in his own way the facts and got from the Secretary of State, Cardinal Antonelli (whose future behavior would show up very strange) that he write to the Pope authorizing a letter to D. Vital, "Gesta tua non laudantur" (Your achievements are not appreciated) in that although praising the bishop, he censured him for having hurry in executing, overzealous, what the Pope had written before, and told him to lift the ban over the brotherhood now for only "after" try to eliminate the Masons within. The Baron and the Government were delighted with the outcome of the mission and immediately reported the fact, but D. Vital, perplexed, put the letter in his pocket and wrote to the Pope asking for explanations, presenting the facts and showing the drawbacks of what he was ordained, especially asked to say to the Pope (who until then, did not know nothing) that he, D. Vital, was arrested. And indeed, soon came the Pope's response sending to destroy the letter of Cardinal Antonelli.
Meanwhile, the government was frustrated because they wanted D. Vital to publish the letter received before; D. Vital, that wasn't a fool, kept save the letter, of course. After all, then came the process. He was summoned to defend himself in eight days and the bishop answered only with this phrase: " 'Jesus tacebat autem' (but Jesus was silent). Signed in my prison in Navy Yard of Rio de Janeiro. Frei Vital..." He was tried in a solemn session of the Supreme Court, that was full of people. Two Catholic Senators defended him, Zacarias de Goes and Candido Mendes de Almeida. But the whole defense was useless, since Freemasonry ruled the government. D. Vital was sentenced for four years in prison with hard labor. There is an interesting note: based on that law of "appeal to the Crown", D. Vital was the 163rd sued person, one of the two people condemned and the only one who fulfill the prison sentence. Also the Bishop of Belém city was sentenced to imprisonment.
The bishop was taken to the Fortress of St. John (in Urca) in which he entered in March 21, 1874 to serve the sentence in which it was converted by the emperor to simple imprisonment without hard labor, before he begins to serve, for instance of the Princess Isabel, who admired Dom Vital. D. Macedo Costa, on the other hand, was jailed in Ilha das Cobras (Snake Island). 
While they fulfilled their prison sentences, the Government persecuted the Catholic leaders of Recife, jailing several others and expelling the Jesuits of Pernambuco State. Even arrested, D. Vital wrote and had published a letter, "A Maçonaria e os Jesuítas" (Freemasonry and the Jesuits), with 139 pages, in which he defended the Jesuits and attacked the Freemasonry. In the fortress, he was visited by a crowd of faithful and clergy, including foreign bishops. This was followed by numerous petitions to the Emperor, with thousands of signatures calling for the release of the bishops.
Princess Isabel herself, went to the fortress to visit him and, with her help, D. Vital could call to the fortress, the seminarians from Recife who were ready to be ordained by the bishop there. The Pope began to protest and wrote to the Emperor of Brazil asking him to free the bishops, stating that the bishops did what they should do. The Emperor seemed not give much importance to the Pope's letter, but the Duque of Caxias proposed to the Emperor an amnesty. The Emperor hesitated. For political reasons, the Viscount of Rio Branco fell and the Duque of Caxias was named to succeed him in office. He accepted on the condition of granting amnesty to the bishops. Finally, the Emperor had to accept, and on September 17, 1875, he decreed an amnesty that freed D. Vital and the other prisoners. 

Pius IX
Then on October D. Vital went to Rome where he was received with joy and paternally by Pius IX (Pope, used to call him "Mio Caro Olinda" [in italian: my dear Olinda]) but, when he visited Cardinal Antonelli, the Cardinal told him the words: "Didn't I written to Your Excellency imposing you to lift the ban and publish my letter?". D. Macedo Soares, moreover, told that the presence of D. Vital in Rome caused annoyances in some "groups". D. Vital responded asking precise instructions and Antonelli gave him. In another meeting in the next day with Pius IX, D. Vital showed to the Pope what Cardinal Antonelli had given him and the Pope was astonished. Pius IX asked for a report by D. Vital and he delivered to him days later, showing that the letter of D. Antonelli contradicted the previous "Breve" (letter). 
Pius IX assembled a commission of cardinals and theologians to whom D. Vital made a written and oral statement. However, had attended hostile people. The impression we have left is that Cardinal Antonelli, if he was not a Mason, he was at least liberal and disliked D. Vital. Finally the Pope kissing Dom Vital, expressed his support and published the encyclical "Exortae" condemning again Freemasonry and supporting the Brazilian bishops but at the same time, Cardinal Antonelli, authorized by the Pope, cabled to the Nuncio in Brazil ordering him to suspend the prohibitions over the brotherhoods without requiring prior removal of the Masons. Well ... In any case, there was the reiteration of the condemnation of the Masons. Well ... We had to live with this, at least at that time ... After all, today would be worse.

D. Vital visited different places and friends in France and Italy. When he was back to Recife, he sought to restore the closed institutions, especially the Seminar and tried to recover the resources denied by the Government. After all, he obtained resources and reopened the seminary. He made pastoral visits, but his health, always precarious, weakened him and he had to return to Europe to treat himself, helped by Princess Isabel. From France he wrote to the Pope asking him to accept his resignation. The Pope asked him to wait and treat his disease. In Brazil climbed to the Government one of the most spiteful Masons, Saldanha Marinho. Pius IX died in February 1878 and soon after, also died D. Vital at 33 years old in Paris. His body was buried in the crypt of the Franciscans in Versailles, where later was moved to Recife. He is buried in the Basilica of Our Lady of Penha, in Recife.

It was ended with a little melancholy this beautiful page of our Catholic history, but it was not his fault (D. Vital) neither of Brazilian Catholics. Except on one point: we must saying that today (1981) for infinite shame of Brazilian Catholics, the dioceses of Olinda and Recide are stained  with an (marxist) individual (is he still a bishop?), Dom Helder Camara, representative of those Brazilian priests whose emptiness had been noticed by Gustavo Corção (a tradicionalist Catholic writer), according to our article published in the number 148-149. Those ecclesiastics (like D. Helder), with a pretext of which they call "option for the poor", do not hide and every day publishes their affinities and sympathies with the worst, most grotesque and stupid byproduct of Freemasonry, which is communism, intrinsically perverse, so explicitly condemned by Pius XI. They found in communism, it seems, a terrible solution for the spiritual emptiness in which they live. There, in sympathy with the agitators and subversives, in the temporal activism that has no time for the "moralism" they could finally find meaning in their lives. And if what we say seems excessive, remember that this is what they say every day.

Permanência's note: All the informations above were taken from the book "D. Vital - Um Grande Brasileiro" (D. Vital - A Great Brazilian). Written by Friar Felix Olivola O.F.M. - Edição da Imprensa Universitária (Edition of the University Press), Recife, 1967. 

Beatification and Canonization

Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, D. Fernando Saburino
 (left) and Friar Jociel Gomes vice postulator of the cause
for beatification (right) in front of D. Vital´s tomb in
a Mass in 2014 
By: Archdiocese of Olinda and Recife
Everything began in 1931 with the arrival of Friar Felix Olivola, Capuchin from Lucca in Italy, to the Convent of Our Lady of Penha, after he had contact with the story of Dom Vital. After this the friar began working in the cause and wrote a biography entitled "Um Grande Brasileiro" (A Great Brazilian) a successful book with three editions.

In 1933 in the First National Eucharistic Congress happened in Salvador-BA, Frei Felix asked Cardinal Sebastiao Leme to speak up about Dom Vital. So the bishops signed a petition that was sent to Pius XI.

In 1948 Frei Felix went to Rome with the intention of initiating the process of beatification but he died during the travel to Italy. So, the Capuchins gave segment to the work of Friar Felix.

On July 4, 2001 in the 123rd anniversary of the death of Dom Vital, the diocesan phase of the process was finally completed. Then the minutes of the process went to Rome being delivered to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, from where the Capuchins are waiting for the pronouncement of the Holy See.

Frei Jociel, vice-postulator of the cause of beatification made a report and an important observation that can prove the martyrdom of D. Vital: "The process of D. Vital was opened in the 1940s but the cause stood for a long time. In the 1990s, D. Jose Cardoso decided to reopen the case. The documentation was collected and everything was done according to the requirements of the Holy See. In 2001 it was delivered to the Vatican. We are in the last phase writing a "Positio" and expecting he be recognized as a martyr. The poisoning may be established with the exhumation and specific tests", he explained.

Detail of the interior of the Basilica of Our Lady of Penha in Recife
By: Archdiocese of Olinda and Recife

"Ask us the sacrifice of our rooms; ask us the sacrifice of our faculties; ask us the sacrifice of our health; ask us the blood of our veins... But for God's sake do not ask us the sacrifice of our consciousness, because we will never do. 'Sic nos Deus adjuvet' (So God help us). Never!"

D. Vital, Bishop of Olinda

Coat of D. Vital

D. Vital, pray for us!

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