The surveillance of the Brazilian JOC during the 1970s

While writing my previous posts about Bishop Angelelli and the JOCI, I stumbled across another document from Brazil that illustrates very well the climate of mistrust against the JOC during the 1970s.

Entitled “Comunismo internacional, Sumario de informações,” it is a report about alleged communist activity in Brazil in 1972.

As can be seen from the stamp on the cover, this copy was provided by the Brazilian intelligence agencies to the national president’s office.

Among the personalities connected to the JOC who are mentioned in the document, we can list:

  • Archbishop Helder Camara of Olinda and Recife, who had been one of the founding chaplains of the JOC in Brazil;
  • Bishop Antonio Fragoso of Crateus, another pioneer JOC chaplain, who had also played a prominent role, like Camara, in the Church of the Poor group at Vatican II;
  • Maria Angelina De Oliveira, former lay leader of the Brazil JOC, who had also been regional vice-president for the JOC in Latin America, who was one of the JOC leaders and former leaders who had been detained under the dictatorship, also a co-founder of the community education and action centre, CEDAC;
  • José Comblin, the Belgian priest and liberation theologian, who was also an assistant diocesan chaplain to the JOC in Brazil.

There are many more names of priests and bishops.

Today, there are also many testimonies, eg. this recent one by Igor Natusch, and historical accounts, e.g. by Scott Mainwaring, regarding the events of that period.

Nevertheless, it is always striking to look at an original “confidential” (reservado) document produced by the intelligence services to get an idea of how these events were understood at the time.

More of the Sumários do Comunismo Internacional can be viewed here at the excellent online São Paulo State Archives. A great public service, particularly to historians!

Stefan Gigacz