Eugenio de Araujo Sales, the former Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro and a Cardinal for 43 years, has died at the age of 91. Sales was an important religious figure during Brazil’s military dictatorship. Although many more progressive Catholics viewed him as an opponent to the popular church (perhaps best symbolized in Liberation Theology) and as an ally of the military, in fact his stance on the dictatorship was far more complex. As Ken Serbin has shown, Sales played a key role in behind-the-scenes discussions between Church officials and the military regime in the early-1970s, negotiations in which Church officials, including Sales, heavily pressured the military regime on issues of human rights abuses. Sales also aided those who were politically persecuted or even tortured during the military regime. Sales did take a stance against what he perceived to be leftist movements’ and ideologies’ influence among social groups, particularly students. In spite of his relative cultural conservatism and (to a lesser extent) political conservatism, Sales was an important figure in challenging the military regime’s systematic abuse and violation of human rights. Rest in peace.
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