Translator's Note: If I had found this exchange of letters anywhere except on the Web site devoted to the life and work of the late Argentine bishop Jerónimo Podestá, created by his widow Clelia, I would have doubted its authenticity. I still find it extraordinary, given that Clelia has clearly ignored her late husband's written promise to Dom Helder that he would keep their exchange a secret. But Clelia was Bishop Podestá's personal secretary for many years before they were married by Dom Helder, and she has been slowly publishing and digitizing his writings and correspondence, so she knows what is true and right. This exchange was also printed in Clelia Luro de Podestá's book about Dom Helder Camara, El mártir que no mataron. Clelia calls the exchange "prophetic". If so, it is a prophecy that has yet to be fulfilled. I would call it "visionary" instead. -- Rebel Girl
Letter from Dom Helder Camara to Mons. Jerónimo Podestá
Recife 30/31 October 1981
Jerónimo, my dear brother:
Of course, it hurt me deeply to have missed our meeting. It was something unexpected and necessary. If I have delayed in responding until today, it was to better meditate about it before God.
I wanted so much for the Spirit of God to whisper the most appropriate response, to have better collaboration for the progress of God's plan ...!
Let me tell you how grateful I am to the Father that you have been freed from such hard and terrible financial worries, and are freer for big and beautiful dreams...
You will only be able to understand my answer with respect to the encounter, considering some items of personal data:
On February 7, 1984, if God still allows me to be on earth, I will be 75 years old and must "dwell" in the Archdiocese of Olinda and Recife.
If God allows me physical strength and a mind that isn't sclerotic, until February 1984 and after getting away from the diocese, I will try to take maximum advantage of it, while taking into account the charisms received and the Lord's calling.
Since I arrived in Recife, in April l964, I have felt that the essential work for me is at the local, regional, and national level -- humble, patient, anonymous work, mainly the base communities and the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops.
But then I also felt the need to help raise the awareness of the rich industrial countries, because without them, structural change would be impractical.
Today I receive 80 international invitations every year on average.
I arranged with my people and Paul VI (and now John Paul II) five trips each year, lasting one month all together, always with prior and cordial approval from the diocesan bishop and always to fight for justice and love as the way to a true and lasting peace.
My deep conviction is that with full realism, looking straight and fearlessly at the very serious problems that are drowning more than 2/3 of humanity and the obvious dangers of universal suicide, there are great signs of hope, both in our countries and in the industrialized and wealthy countries.
By the way, I tell you that while World Challenge, a work of the Paris Club, is useful as a compilation of data, it seems to have been made more as Japanese propaganda. I don't dispute the value of electronics. What I think is naive is to imagine that the Japanese will have so much success they will able to overwhelm and will be able to live and make others live a fraternal world attitude, in polar opposition to the egoism and selfishness of today's super power.
I have three major dreams that are complementary and that will require different tasks according to the charisms received.
A) A dream of authentic Latin American integration without outside imperialism or imperialism from within.
Latin America has, in relation to its brothers Asia and Africa, three main responsibilities (notice that I'm not saying superior things, but responsibilities)
Latin America has virtually the same language.
Latin America has the same Christian background
Latin America has one and a half centuries of experience of political independence without economic independence and without cultural independence.
Authentic integration without external or internal imperialisms (plural).
For the Church (not going in any way towards new Christianities or theocratic governments, or Christian parties) to stimulate the march towards a fraternal continent, the starting point for a fraternal world, it will be necessary to retake CELAM, which will be done without personal ambition, no cheap shots and seeing only that the Church of Christ in Latin America is always more and more at the service of our suffering people.
Any precipitousness in this regard would be disastrous. We must be alert to the Hour of God (in my opinion as I see it). After retaking CELAM and before the year 2000.
B) A dream of making possible the Second Council of Jerusalem in 2000
There are prior operations that are being and will always be more and more led by the Holy Spirit itself.
Transformation of the Roman Curia, so that it might become in effect service to Episcopal Collegiality and the Co-responsibility of the People of God as a whole
Effective aid to the Pope so that he can fulfill his mission as Peter and live out the primacy in exclusive evangelical terms of service and love.
Actual experience of the People of God as overcoming shocks, as vertical Church and horizontal Church, hierarchical Church and Church of the People ...
A Jerusalem Council II assumes the spirit of what happened between Peter and Paul. The venue could be Rome itself, as a Pauline way to manifest love and fidelity to the Church of Christ, trying to help it.
I) To free oneself from the teeth of money and the temptations of prestige.
II) To live out the words of Christ as He spoke to the Samaritan woman.
III) To live out the announcement of the Good News as an effective safeguard for the cultures, among which the Spirit of Christ has sowed Christian truths that are being ignored.
Only in this way will the Church of Christ achieve the ecumenism to which it is fully called.
The 2000 deadline would be impractical if this dream alone didn't have the Spirit of God itself as the main promoter.
C) A dream of an authentic dialogue with the world of worlds.
We all know that the galaxy to which we belong is far from being among the biggest. Our sun that seems immense to us is of the sixth or seventh rank. Our earth is a dot in the cavalcade of the stars.
As Christians, we will never forget that the Son of God became incarnate on our tiny and humble earth.
But how can we insist on thinking that the Creator, infinitely wise and powerful, would create billions of stars millions of times larger than the earth, just so that they would stay enormous distances away, blinking to delight the human eye ...?
It would be absurd pride to claim that there is life, and above all intelligent and free life, on Earth alone ...
There must be worlds of worlds, life on the level of ours and life above the level of ours.
The problem for the human creature would be reaching such distant worlds. With the essences of Earth we would have to leave for frozen surfaces, to be broken several generations after ours.
But who doubts that man will learn to travel using the forces of nature and reach the speed of light?
Einstein warned us that if such a thing occured, the human body would volatilize ... But why doubt that man with his intelligence would find the means to protect himself against the volatilization of the body?
Because it is more than likely that all this will happen around the year 2000, we must be alert to help our brothers and sisters who will remain dumbfounded ... Even today there are those who doubt the arrival of man on the moon. Some say today that if it were true that man had gotten to the moon, it would be the end of the world, when we are still in the early days of Creation.
I am deeply interested in the three dreams.
At the opportune moment, I can point out one or two qualified Brazilians to join a Latin American team to put themselves fully at the service of the first dream.
I aim to interface with more and more specialists in astronomy, astronautics, astrophysics, astrochemistry, and astro-politics to help bring the Church of Christ today closer to the take-off of dream No. 3.
But the dream to which I feel practically called is dream No. 2. It doesn't worry me to know that it is more than likely that I will attend Jerusalem II from the Father's house. I will be helping from up there.
Believe, Jerónimo, that I'm speaking to you openheartedly, as usual. And know that this letter is not yours alone, it is also for Clelia, who has been a providential instrument with you.
Clelia, I appreciate the very pretty vicuña scarf that always goes along with me in my travels in cold countries.
Maybe my dreams seem very crazy to you. Maybe you would like to see me with feet more firmly in the humble day to day.
When you dream alone
It is only a dream
When we dream together
It's the beginning of a reality.
Let us always stay united in Christ.
+ Helder Cámara
Response of Mons. Jerónimo Podestá
Buenos Aires, December 4, l981
Dear Dom Helder:
These lines are not intended as an answer but an acknowledgment of receipt of you very extensive and beautiful letter ... The disappointment that you did not come to our meeting in Rio was more than compensated by your letter and its intimate secrets ... so I said to Clelia that we will come out ahead from the "terrible non-meeting" because Helder will express his innermost and deepest ideas and thoughts, but we didn't suspect they would be such complete confidences. We feel privileged that you have opened your heart and mind to us and we will jealously guard these pages of yours which will be a secret between us and you ...
I want to make two comments: Don't be afraid to have gone outside of the concrete and even less that we think you're living dreams of fantasy, but rather very specific dreams of Faith, Hope that speak a close reality with the real utopia of the Gospel and the Blessed Hope of the Parousia which, Teilhard de Chardin says, we must hasten through an "accumulation of desire."
I humbly agree totally with your three dreams -- they are also ours. The second - that is, the profound transformation of the Church has been the constant concern of Clelia -- and mine too --especially since you joined me to her, but we did not envision a future Second Council of Jerusalem in which a Paul would emerge who could confront Peter and censure his excesses and extrapolations -- Now I see clearly that a future Council appears far more feasible and effective than the miracle of a Pope who is able and willing to conceive the Church and its structures in a different way.
As for the first dream of a united Latin America, you know how much we have dreamed of it too.
It is undoubtedly a great theme being open to the "world of worlds", your third dream, until now that prospect did not seem so immediate to me but rather "future", but you are absolutely right: "We must be open and ready when the time comes ... " I always thought it worrisome that the Church was so disoriented, focused almost exclusively "on the beyond", so far removed from the clerical scientific expectations; it doesn't realize that it's closed in on itself and that in an aberrant and even heretical way it sees itself as self-sufficient, it believes itself to be and feels "Divine." (whereas it isn't in any way in its temporal structures) it experiences itself as a surrogate for Christ and the Spirit, since it is simply "infallible"
What can we do so that these dreams will be shared by many and so begin to become a reality ?.....