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Portugal: Subversive Priest's “Homily” to General Strike on YouTube

This article is part of our special coverage on Europe in Crisis.

[All links forward to Portuguese articles unless stated otherwise]

Mário Pais de Oliveira, a priest and writer who celebrated his 75th birthday this month, considers all religion to be perverse and all ideology to be a lie. At the same time, he religiously uses social networks to share his very particular- and subversive- thoughts on current events.

Since creating a YouTube channel in March 2009, he has already uploaded more than 1,300 videos which strongly encourage an authentic anti-authoritarian gospel using a Socratic approach.

On his Facebook profile, where he has almost reached 4,500 friends, he also shares his “Thoughts born from Maieutic Political Practices” daily. He presents himself as a citizen of the world, a retired journalist, and a priest who answers to Mass orders from the Church of Porto, though “happily, without any ecclesiastical office”:

"Na Companhia de Jesus e de Ateus" Mário Pais de Oliveira, também conhecido por Padre Mário de Oliveira, (Lourosa, Santa Maria da Feira, 8 de Março de 1937) é um jornalista e escritor português. Foto de Leunam Max no Facebook.

Mário Pais de Oliveira, also known as Father Mário da Lixa (Lourosa, Santa Maria da Feira, 8th March 1937). Photo by Leunam Max on Facebook.

De que vale fazer carreira eclesiástica, até ser bispo residencial ou papa, ou ser gestor de uma multinacional, se, para isso, temos de desistir de vez de sermos simplesmente Humanos, outros Jesus?!

What is the point of following an ecclesiastical career until you become a resident bishop, or Pope, or a manager of an international organisation, if we have to stop being human, other Jesuses, in order to do it?!

During the dictatorship in Portugal [en], which lasted from 1926 until 1974, his refutable spirit and the “suspicion that he was covering up deliberately subversive activities of students (specifically by supporting the associative movement, which was banned by the political regime at the time)”, led to the Diocese of Porto sending him to Guinea-Bissau as a military chaplain for the Portuguese Army in 1967, according to his biography on Luis Graça & Camaradas da Guiné's blog.

However, his participation in the colonial war lasted only a few months. In March 1968:

foi expulso de capelão militar, por ter ousado pregar, nas Missas, o direito dos povos colonizados à autonomia e independência, e regressou à sua Diocese, rotulado pelo Bispo castrense de então, D. António dos Reis Rodrigues, como padre irrecuperável.

he was expelled from the military chaplaincy for being so bold as to preach, during Mass, about the colonised people's right to autonomy and independence. He returned to his Diocese, branded by D. António dos Reis Rodrigues, the military bishop at the time, as a priest that was forever lost.

“We must come up with new ways to transform society”

Today's general strike- the third to take place in the last year and a half against the austerity measures and the policies of cuts imposed by the government- reminds us of the video published by Father Mário in the aftermath of the general strike of the 24 November [en], which halted, according to government data, fewer than 11% of public services, or more than 3 million workers, according to estimates from the two main unions (CGTP [en] and UGT [en]) that promoted it.

as centrais sindicais e os respectivos sindicatos que as integram parecem coincidir com as igrejas (…) que insistem sempre nos mesmos meios ano após ano para intervirem na sociedade. Não se está a revelar capacidade criativa, capacidade de inventar meios, processos, metodologias, conteúdos, posturas, práticas, que vão de encontro ao Grande Poder Financeiro, ao Grande Mercado Global, que está a arruinar-nos, que está a matar-nos, que está a asfixiar-nos, a levar-nos a pele e o osso. Não há. As centrais sindicais estão esgotadas, os seus líderes estão esgotados. Parece que a imaginação desapareceu. O sistema financeiro que nos mata, que nos asfixia, parece que esvazia as nossas mentes, não somos capazes já de gerar nenhuma saída, nenhuma solução que resulte, que o derrube, que o deite por terra, que o descredibilize. E de cada greve geral, o poder financeiro sai ainda mais fortalecido. (…)

Tenho pena porque a chamada Greve Geral não é Greve Geral coisa nenhuma. Grande parte da população continua a trabalhar. (…) Greve geral seria o país parar, parar! Ficarmos todos em casa, ninguém sair, ninguém fazer compras, ninguém frequentar os mercados, ninguém vir para a rua, não haver trânsito, nem carros particulares. NADA! Era greve geral: TODA a gente PÁRA! Ora enquanto a greve não for assim, não é sinal de nada. Só é sinal de reforçar o poder (…) é que a greve geral é autorizada pelo poder (…) quer dizer, o poder autoriza que se faça uma greve geral, se ele autoriza (…) é sinal de que percebe que essa greve geral – que de geral só tem o nome – é mais ficção do que realidade, por mais que mobilize muita gente a maior parte do país não é mobilizada porque não pára. Então o poder sai reforçado, porque tudo é consentido por ele. No início (…) as greves eram ilegais, não eram permitidas, era a perseguição na rua, a polícia, o poder tinham de mostrar a sua face e sair para a rua. (…) Eram greves a sério, assim não. Assim é um folclore (…). Parece mais uma romaria, uma procissão.

The two main unions, and the respective unions that integrate them, seem to agree with the Church (…) which year after year insists on the same way of intervening in society. They are not about to reveal a creative capacity, the ability to invent ways, processes, methodologies, attitudes and practices that go against the great financial power, the great global market, that is ruining us, killing us, suffocating us and leading us to skin and bone. No. The main unions are drained, and so are their leaders. All imagination appears to have vanished. The same financial system that is killing us, suffocating us, seems to empty our minds so that we cannot come up with an escape plan, a solution that would make it topple, fall to the ground, discredit it. And with every general strike, the financial powers are getting stronger and stronger. (…)

It saddens me that the so-called general strike is not a general strike at all. A large portion of the population continues to work. (…) A general strike would mean the whole country stopping. Just stop! We all stay at home, no-one goes out, no-one does the shopping, no-one wanders around the markets, no-one is in the street, there is no traffic, no cars. Nothing! If it were a general strike, EVERYBODY would STOP! If the strike is not carried out in this way, it means nothing. It only shows the powers being reinforced (…) and that the general stirke is authorised by powers. (…) In other words, the powers allow a general strike to take place. (…) It can be seen in this general strike (which is only “general” in name): it is a greater fiction than it is a reality, as much as it brings forward a lot of people from a large part of the country, they are not mobilised because they don't stop. And so the powers are strengthened, because everything has their consent. At first (…) strikes were illegal, they weren't allowed; it was police persecution in the streets, because the powers had to show their faces. (…) Unlike nowadays, they were serious strikes. Now it's like folklore. (…) This seems more like a pilgrimage, a procession.

Father Mário still edits the monthly Jornal Fraternizar, which since January 2011 has been published exclusively online. His book is due for release on 24th March: “Evangelho de Jesus segundo Maria, Mãe de João Marcos, e Maria Madalena” [The Gospel of Jesus according to Mary, mother of John Mark, and Mary Magdalene].

This article is part of our special coverage on Europe in Crisis.

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