Two Brazilian bishops have informed the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need that the Church's stand in defense of native peoples' lands has provoked massive pressure and threats of violence from Brazilian landowners and timber barons.
Archbishop Luiz Soares Vieira, the vice-president of the Brazilian Bishops' Conference, and Bishop Dimas Lara Barbosa, its general secretary, claimed that powerful developers are seeking to take land from native Indians and have attacked the Church for her opposition to these land grabs.
These power brokers have abused the media to foment animosity against the Church and have threatened church personnel with murder. One bishop cannot leave his house without bodyguards and wears a bulletproof vest while celebrating Mass.
The president of the Brazilian Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Geraldo Lyrio Rocha, also expressed concern about the nation's poverty. Half of Brazil's population of 188 million lives below the poverty level. The archbishop said that wealth was still concentrated in the hands of the few, while vast numbers of people live "in dire poverty."
"When the people suffer, the Church suffers too," he said.
The bishops also reported other significant problems for the Brazilian church in the form of "psychological war" from anti-Catholic sects, a timid laity, and a severe shortage of priests.