Testimony of the late Dom Jose Maria Pires – Archbishop Emeritus of Paraiba

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By Fr John Caruana

Dom José Maria Pires, Archbishop Emeritus of Paraiba, Brazil passed away at the age of 98 on August 27, 2017. In the light of this sad news, I would like to recall the testimony he sent me about Fr John Mary Cauci, of Gozo, when I was compiling The Maltese Missionary Experience.

Mgr Jose Maria Pires, Archbishop Emeritus of Paraiba, Brazil. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace. Amen.

“Fr John Mary Cauchi was first sent as a Fidei Donum seminarian to Recife. Bishop Helder Camara contacted me saying that the seminarian John Mary Cauchi is not feeling well in Recife which was a great metropolis. He liked to work in a place which is poorer and where common people abound. I accepted him rapidly and in fact his arrival in Paraiba was really a blessing. He was ordained by me at the age of 25 years in December 1967. He wasn’t a great orator but he knew how to communicate well with the farmers.

That epoch was marked by two special happenings: the military dictatorship and Vatican II. The Council taught us that the Church is the People of God. The people in Paraiba consisted mostly of poor and simple people. As a result, it is our duty to help organise these people and make them understand that the poor are the preferred before the Almighty. The poor are those who do not have money, who are not educated, who do not have any certificate, who have only virtues. They are the preferred of God and the privileged of the Gospel.

Evangelising for our diocese was not only pray, celebrate, and administer the sacraments. It was all this, but also to be near to the people, live near the people, participate in their struggles, their sufferings and in their victories. John Mary evangelised more by his example than by his words.

Fr John Mary Cauchi following the first attempt on his life. Fr John is still a missionary in Brazil to this day.

He lived the Gospel of non-violence, he was present and near the people in their struggles in favour of their rights, he was persecuted, suffered attempts on his life. The signs of this attempt remained marked on the body of his Toyota – bullets that were destined for the driver and who was with him at that moment. But he did not give up his commitment to the farmers. Every time that I as bishop had to go to defend the farmers with my presence, there was always present John Mary Cauchi.

On a Maundy Thursday when we were about to start the Mass of Unity, John Mary
and Fr Anastasio arrived with their clothes all wet and covered with mud. They had spent the night with the farmers and their families who had been expelled from their fields the day before. They came straight to the Cathedral to celebrate the Mass of Unity because they did not have time to go home to take a bath and change their clothes.

I can of course say much more on the evangelical commitment of Fr John Mary Cauchi. This short testimony reflects my appreciation and gratitude for this priest who dedicated all his life to the cause of evangelisation in Paraiba.”

Bishop Jose Maria Pires – Archbishop Emeritus of Paraiba.

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