Letter to Brazilian Ambassador on Killing of Fr. Penido Burnier
October 29, 1976
Ambassador Joao Baptista Pinheiro
Ambassador of Brazil
3006 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Dear Mr. Ambassador:
We were deeply distressed to learn of the brutal and apparently unprovoked attack against the Jesuit priest, Pe. Joao Bosco Penido Burnier by a military policeman in the patrimony of Riberirao Bonito on Monday, October 11.
As you know, Pe. Joao Bosco and the bishop of Sao Felix do Aragauia, Dom Pedro Casaldaliga, both passing through the area after a meeting it Santa Terezinha, had learned of certain arbitrary measures being taken against two women prisoners by the local military police. In attempting to mediate with the local authorities, Pe. Joao Bosco was shot in the head by one of the soldiers and, the following day, died in the neurological center in Goiania.
It is surely ironic that this missionary priest, dedicated to the welfare of the indigenous peoples in the Prelature of Diamantino, should die on October 12, the "dia de la Raza" on which we commemorate the first encounter of the European and Indian cultures.
Although we would like to believe that this was an isolated incident, speedily corrected by the appropriate authorities of your Government, we cannot forget, however, the several other incidents that have occurred in this same area in recent years, particularly the illegal actions taken against such other defenders of their people's rights as Pe. Francisco Jentel and Dom Pedro Casaldaliga, as well as the numerous and well-documented attacks on the posseiros and Indians themselves.
We trust that you will communicate this latest expression of our continued concern to your Government.
Most Rev. James S. Rausch