August 2002


The Pope of Spiritism

Chico Xavier's wish was to die in a day the country was in feast. And death came that same Sunday, June 30, in which Brazil won the soccer World Cup in Japan, dragging to the Brazilian streets celebratory crowds the nation hadn't seen in years. For the most famous spiritual medium psychograph in Brazil and maybe the world it was peace at last, after a 92-year-long existence filled with personal suffering and inspiration for a whole country.

Lucid until the end, he had spent a routine day, visiting Casa da Prece (Prayer House)—the place where he used to hold his psychographics' sessions—and staying at home, in Uberaba, state of Minas Gerais. He died—or as spiritists like him like to say—disembodied in his bed, soon after dinner, from cardiac arrest.

While the Brazilian seleção was being received in Brasília, the capital, on July 2nd, by hundreds of thousands of Brasilienses, there was a line of 100,000 people trying to say their final goodbye to the Mineiro (from Minas Gerais state) channeler. Francisco de Paula Cândido Xavier was called the Pope of Spiritism and many considered him the world's most important spiritist leader. He psychographed (wrote while in trance) 418 books, many of them translated in foreign languages.

Xavier was born on April 2nd, 1910, in the small town of Pedro Leopoldo, in the state of Minas Gerais. The father, João Cândido Xavier, took the boy to the local priest, when he at the age of four started complaining that there was a spirit bothering him. Father Sebastião concluded that the child was possessed by the devil and sent him back home with a penance: 1000 Hail Marys and going to processions with a 30-lb stone on the head. It didn't help. The spirit wouldn't let him alone.

He was only five when his mother, Maria João de Deus, died. Left with nine kids to raise, his father, João Cândido Xavier, appealed to relatives to help. Xavier was sent to his godmother's house, Dona Ritinha, who proved to be a very mean and abusive guardian. She used to beat him up three times a day in predetermined hours so he would get rid of the "influences of the evil".

Little Xavier used to bleed after the beatings and many times he would hide in the backyard. It was in one such occasion, he said later, that the spirit of his mother appeared and told him: "Be patient, son. You need to grow up stronger for the work. And he who doesn't suffer will not learn how to fight." Instead of becoming a rebel, Chico Xavier grew up as a very resigned man, always with a smile in his serene face.


The future spiritist leader studied only until 4th grade. He began his work as channeler on July 8th, 1927, at age 17. Legend has it that in 1928, Carmen Pena Perácio, one of the members of the reduced group of spiritists of Centro Espírita Luiz Gonzaga, which was founded by Xavier's father, had a vision: in it young Chico Xavier was hit by a shower of books. He saw that as his mission in life: to be a prolific writer.

The channeler says that he had his first encounter with the spirit Emmanuel in 1931. Chico Xavier would sign several books under Emmanuel's name throughout his life.

His first book, Parnaso de Além-Túmulo (Beyond-the-Grave Parnassus) was published in 1932. The 400-page book included 259 poems "dictated" by great Brazilian dead poets like Castro Alves, Olavo Bilac, Arthur de Azevedo, Alphonsus de Guimaraens, and Augusto dos Anjos.

Some intellectuals assured that the style of each poet had been preserved. And the widow of Humberto de Campos, one of the poets in the collection, went to the extreme of suing Xavier to get her part of the dead husband's royalty. A judge denied it, explaining, "The man is dead, and dead people have no rights." Probably disgusted with the whole episode, Campos never again used the medium to continue his poetic work.

Among the author's books there were novels: spiritual, philosophical, and scientific essays, as well as self-help works, which have sold a total of 25 million copies. His books have been translated into several languages including English, French, Japanese and Greek. André Luiz, another spirit, was also a constant partner in several books by the spiritist leader. André Luiz is believed by spiritists to be the pseudonym of famed physician Carlos Chagas, who in 1909 discovered the American trypanosomiasis, also known as Chagas disease.

Xavier became a household name in Brazil during the 30s. By then, the medium was already able to "psychograph" more than 700 "prescriptions" in only one session. According to Xavier himself, most of these prescriptions were dictated by Adolpho Bezerra de Menezes, a homeopathic physician and philanthropist, who was born in Ceará, lived in Rio, and died in 1900.

When Chico Xavier moved to Uberaba, still in the state of Minas Gerais—a town well larger than his native Pedro Leopoldo—in 1959, he already was well known not only in Brazil but also in several foreign countries. There he would establish a thriving spiritist community dedicated to help the poor and the sick. Casa da Prece (Prayer House) and Casa da Paz (Peace House) continue even now to distribute every week hundreds of baskets containing food to the poor of the region.


This seems like a tall tale, but weekly newsmagazine Isto É tells that Chico Xavier in 1979 saved the life of José Divino Nunes, accused of murdering his best friend Maurício Henriques. The fact occurred in Goiânia de Campinas, a small town in the state of Goiás. The judge in the case accepted the deposition of the dead victim, who through the medium, not only cleared the friend but also revealed the identity of the real murder, who was able to disappear before being put behind bars.

The image most have of Chico Xavier is that of a skinny man, always smiling behind tinted glasses and covered by a checkered cap, which he wore to hide his baldness. He also used to wear a wig, one of the few vanities he allowed himself to have. In the last 43 years the medium lived only from the pension he got after retiring in 1958 as a clerical worker for the Minas Gerais Department of Agriculture.

All the money brought by his books was used to fund charities and spiritist works. Some of his simple pleasures: gelatin, meatball, tea, and classical music, in special Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. His was a spartanly furnished, blue and white house, with two bedrooms, at Rua Pedro I, in the Parque das Américas neighborhood, in Uberaba.

At the end of his life, Xavier had hearing problems, with only 30 percent of his hearing capacity left. He was also blind from an eye and couldn't see very well from the other. Besides, he had a hard time walking around. Despite his feeble health, however, the channeler kept his daily routine until the end. He used to wake up at 8 AM, have breakfast and scan the day's newspapers.

After lunch and a siesta, he was ready at 3 PM for the daily visit of his barber Belmiro Chagas Neto, Netinho, who besides shaving him, for many years took also care of the channeler's wigs. Saturday was the only day he went out to meet the group Espírita da Prece. There were always lines of people from all over the country in front of the building in the hope to at least get a glimpse of someone they worshipped like a saint.

A Farce?

Trying to demystify the spiritual medium, Realidade—the defunct magazine that many consider Brazil's best publication ever—, in the '70s, wrote that Xavier had no special powers, but was simply the constant victim of epileptic seizures. Elias Barbosa, his physician at the time, denied, however, that the spiritist leader was ever an epileptic.

Chico Xavier became a cult figure in Brazil, a kind of domestic Mother Teresa of Calcutta. He was one of the most popular people in the country and in 1981 more than 10 million Brazilians signed a petition asking the Nobel committee to consider his name for the Nobel Peace Prize. That same year, House Representative José Freitas Nobre, himself a spiritist, delivered to the Nobel committee in Oslo a package of information on Xavier weighing more than 200 pounds. The papers showed that by then close to 2000 assistance programs were being funded or helped by his work and the sale of his, up until then, 183 books. He was nominated for the Nobel in 1981 and again the following year.

Brazil has a number of spiritual mediums that—differently from Xavier—became famous for their spectacular "spiritual" operations, always without anesthetics sometimes using only a kitchen knife. Zé Arigó (José Pedro de Freitas), who died in 1971 in a car accident, and Rubens de Faria Júnior, for example, claimed to be possessed when in trance by a Dr. Fritz. Dr. Adolph Fritz is presented as a German doctor who died during World War I. Faria Júnior has been charged and is being prosecuted now in Brazil for charlatanism and illegal exercise of medicine. His prestige seems to be intact, however, with foreign audiences, including in the US, who like to invite him for conferences.

The Basis

The Spiritism was the creation of French Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail (1804-1869), better known as Allan Kardec. He authored several books on language and arithmetic, and was a professor at Sorbonne University and other renowned French schools. In 1855 he started attending mediums sessions. Soon after he revealed that he had a personal communication from a spirit who told him that they had been friends in another life, among the Druids, a time in which Rivail was called Allan Kardec. That's the way he would sign his books from then on.

His famed work The Book of Spirits, the first systematization of Spiritism, was published in April 1857. In France, however, according to an article published by weekly newsmagazine Veja in July 2000, the only Kardec association has a little more than 150 members. Jacques Peccatte, from the Allan Kardec Circle of Nancy, is quoted as saying, "Here, in France, as all over Europe, Spiritism is unknown. It's not considered something serious. Only in Brazil the Kardecist doctrine is really developed."

In a recent interview, Durval Ciamponi, president of São Paulo's Spiritist Federation, suggested that there are more Spiritists in Brazil than the statistics reveal. "If we include all of those who go to centros (Spiritist temples) the number of Brazilian spiritists reach 20 million," he says, and with a touch of irony: "Many of them declare themselves Catholics or Protestants to the Census, but someone who believes in communication with the dead cannot be considered a Catholic."

According to the IBGE (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística—Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) Census, there are 2.34 million declared Spiritists in Brazil. While an impressive number, this represents less than 1.5 percent of Brazil's population (175 million). Some experts believe that at least 10 percent of the population practices Spiritism even though many of them are Catholic or belong to a protestant denomination. More than that, a survey made in 1996 by Vox Populi showed that 59 percent of Brazilians believe into two basic postulates of Spiritism that are not accepted by Catholicism or Protestantism: communication with the dead and reincarnation.

Chico's Thoughts on:

Criticism: "The attacks that I receive are precious warnings against the imperfections I carry".

Death: "A complete change of house, without a person's essential change."

Donation of organs: "My channeling, my life, I dedicated them to my family, to my friends, to the people. My death is mine. I am entitled to it. Nobody can touch my body. It should go to mother earth."

Dreams: "Everyone in this world has the good fortune of dreaming. I believe that God, in his infinite kindness, gave us the dream as a right as a creature. No other creature can interfere with that."

His mission: "I feel like a wonderful machine at the service of Spiritism. Only that I need constant repairs due to my imperfections. My obligation is to correct my defects and do unto others what I wish for myself."

Lie: "Sometimes, as Emmanuel says, you need to postpone the truth."

Marriage: "I resisted the temptation of the flesh, and it was not easy. The other day, the great Goiana (from Goiás state) poet Cora Coralina told a reporter that old people, even old people, are entitled to erotic dreams. Wonderful dreams... But I didn't come to this life to get married. My commitment is with channeling and my spiritual family is already a large one".

Solitude: "Good only to ponder about because, without a doubt, we were created to live with each other."

What hurts him: "To offend or to harm somebody."

Bye to the Chief 

The former Xavante chief and ex-federal representative Mário Juruna, 62, died on July 16 in Brasília from renal complications caused by diabetes and high blood pressure. A vigil over the body of the ex-indigenous leader was held at the Black Hall of the Chamber of Representatives and he was buried at the Namunkurá village, located in the municipality of Barra do Garças, state of Mato Grosso. He married three times and had 14 children.

Juruna was one of the most important personalities of the Brazilian indigenous movement in the last three decades. He became very popular in Brazil for recording all the conversations he had with governmental authorities and later on accusing them of making false promises. In March 1980, after overturning a judicial prohibition to leave the country, he presided over the IV Bertrand Russell Tribunal for Human Rights in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands.

In 1982, he was elected federal representative for the Democratic Labor Party (PDT) of Rio de Janeiro, becoming the first indigenous person to hold a seat in the National Congress. In response to the then minister of Aeronautics, Délio Jardim de Mattos, who criticized the population of Rio de Janeiro for having voted for "the loincloth of an uncultured and exotic man," Juruna wrote a letter in which he said he had been elected with 80,000 votes and asked the brigadier with how many votes he had been elected minister. "I would like to know whether your ministry has the competency to decide on or issue opinions about the political and civil rights of indigenous people," he questioned, finishing the letter saying that he had been elected to "bother you"—that is, people in high places.

His career as a member of parliament was brilliant and marked by controversy. He was the first chairman of the Committee for Indigenous Affairs of the Chamber of Representatives. In April 1983, he delivered a document to the then minister of Interior, colonel Mário Andreazza, accusing Funai (Fundação Nacional do Índio—National Indian Foundation) of jeopardizing the interests of indigenous peoples based on the testimony of 360 indigenes and missionaries. In a speech he delivered in September of that year in defense of the Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe people, he referred to the then president of the Republic, general João Batista Figueiredo, and his ministers as "corrupt men and thieves." As a result of that speech, he almost lost his seat in parliament for offense against decorum.

He supported the so-called Dante de Oliveira amendment proposing direct elections for President of the Republic and accused businessman Calim Eid of trying to bribe him to vote for the candidate of the military regime, Paulo Maluf, in the Electoral College. In April 1985, he voted for the opposition candidate, Tancredo Neves.

After the end of his term in Congress, he unsuccessfully tried to reelect himself three times and ended up becoming an advisor to PDT leaders in the Chamber of Representatives. Very sick and bound to a wheelchair, he lived the last years of his life in Guará, a satellite city in Brazil's Federal District.

According to Cimi's executive secretary, Egon Heck, his death "silenced one of the most important figures of the indigenous movement in Brazil. It also silenced his legendary tape recorder, which we miss very much."

This report was originally published by the Indigenist Missionary Council (CIMI).

The Four-Year Itch

According to Agência Brasil, the official voice of the Brazilian government, citing a report from the Superior Electoral Court, 18,151 candidates are running for 1,600 offices in the executive and legislative branches in this year's elections, which will take place on October 6. That same day, Brazilians will also be electing their next President. The largest number of candidates, 12,978, is running for state legislatures (deputado estadual), where there are 1,059 seats at stake. In 1998, the date of the previous election, there were 9,918 candidates.

This year's race for the 513 seats in the lower house (deputado federal) involves a total of 4,629 candidates, compared to 3,354 in 1998. With two-thirds of the Senate up for grabs this year, 334 candidates are running for 54 seats there, compared to 165 in 1998 when 27 seats were vacant. A total of 210 candidates are running for 27 governorships, compared to 174 in 1998. Finally, the only race where the number of candidates has actually fallen is for president. Instead of the twelve candidates who ran in 1998, this time there are only half that, six.

The same Agência Brazil informs that the Chief Justice of the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), Nelson Jobim, has delivered a final report evaluating the Brazilian electronic voting system to the heads of congress, representative Aécio Neves and senator Ramez Tebet. The evaluation was conducted by the University of Campinas (Unicamp). According to Jobim, the report says the system is "robust, secure and trustworthy."

For this year's October elections, a total of 114 million Brazilians are eligible to vote. There will be 406,000 electronic voting machines; as a further security check, 51,000 of them will have a printout capacity.

This information was originally published in the Agência Brasil site at

Eyes Wild Open 

On July 25, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso inaugurated the Sivam (Sistema de Vigilância do Amazonas—Amazon Vigilance System). During the ceremony, the Minister of Defense, Geraldo Quintão, explained that the system will monitor 5.2 million square kilometers of Brazil's Amazon region where 9 states are located. Quintão called the implementation of the system a political act by the State in defense of its sovereignty within the framework of a geo-strategic policy.

With three-fourths of the system now operational, Quintão also mentioned that it was "imperative" that funding for the remaining 25 percent of the system be available. Cardoso said that the Sivam project surprised the world by its boldness, and was developed exclusively by Brazilians.

The Sivam is part of the SIPAM (Sistema de Proteção do Amazonas—Amazon Protection System). More than $1.4 billion was spent on Sivam, which consists of a monitoring system for the whole Amazon basin region, which besides Brazil, includes parts of Bolivia, Colombia and Peru.

With regard to the Colombian region, the concern is with security and the movement of persons, boats and aircraft along the border with Brazil, which stretches for 1,600 kilometers. It is an area where cocaine is grown. Peru and Bolivia are concerned with environmental information that Sivam will furnish from data collected by 200 weather and hydrological platforms scattered throughout the region.

The Amazon Vigilance System is part of a strategic plan to protect the Amazon flora and fauna. The Amazon has the world's greatest variety of animal and vegetable life and plays a key role in the planet's weather and ecological equilibrium. The Amazon covers 61 percent of Brazil's total territory, contains one-third of all the forests in the world and 30 percent of all biodiversity that has been cataloged. It also contains the world's biggest amount of fresh water.

In the recent past, the Amazon has undergone serious problems, such as inadequate human occupation resulting in predatory farming, reduction of biodiversity, illegal lumbering and environmental degradation. Urban areas in the Amazon have had trouble with population concentrations, deterioration of health services and reduced levels of human well-being.

Three new aircraft, which will operate as part of Sivam, were incorporated into the Brazilian Air Force. The planes were manufactured in Brazil by Embraer (Empresa Brasileira de Aeronáutica SA). The same company will furnish another five planes in the near future.

According to the Air Force, with the aircraft in operation Brazil will be able to protect its sovereignty by detecting any invasion of its airspace. Information collected by Sivam could be passed on to Colombia. The matter was discussed in a meeting between Cardoso and Colombia's president-elect Alvaro Uribe.

According to Foreign Minister, Celso Lafer, Uribe expressed interest in the possibility. Said Lafer, "Brazil is aware of the fact that Colombia must decide what is appropriate, after all, it is responsible for its own public security."

This information was originally published in the Agência Brasil site at

Its Master's Eyes 

Amidst accusations by the Folha de São Paulo newspaper that the current Chief of Staff of the Air Force, lieutenant general Marcos Antônio de Oliveira, favored the Americans during the tender for the project, president Fernando Henrique Cardoso inaugurated July 25th, the Amazonian Surveillance System (Sivam), in Manaus. The stated objective of the project is to monitor, by means of airborne radar and satellite signals, 5.5 million square kilometers of the Brazilian Amazon.

According to the Folha, general Oliveira leaked confidential information that favored the Raytheon company, the fourth largest Pentagon contractor, in a public tender against the French company, Thompson (now Thales) for deployment of Sivam. The stakes were US$ 1.4 billion. The military also supposedly promised to pass on information collected by Sivam to US authorities. The accusations are based on 400 documents that the newspaper obtained from the State Department.

Ever since the project was announced, in the early 1990s, Cimi has expressed concern on a number of occasions that, besides issues related to corruption, Sivam could negatively affect the rights and interests of the indigenous peoples and riverbank populations of Amazonia. Similar to the example of the Calha Norte Program, Sivam was conceived under the bias of the old militaristic doctrine of National Security, according to which the indigenous populations that live on the country's borders are potential enemies of Brazil.

The newspaper, Estado de S. Paulo stated that Sivam is entering into operation just at the moment when there is a military build up on the border with Colombia, where nine fronts are located against the Armed Revolutionary Forces (Farc). As foreseen, information collected by Sivam will most likely be utilized by operations of the Colombia Plan, a US 1.3 billion project financed by the United States. Under the pretext of fighting drug traffickers, the project has clear military objectives within the neighboring country.

Everything indicates that Sivam will be nothing but a branch of the broadest aerial monitoring system ever in South America and the Caribbean, evidently controlled by the government of the United States. This assumption is in accordance to some of the Department of State documents disclosed by the Folha, in which the American government commemorates the victory of Raytheon not only as a business success, but as a geopolitical advance as well.

In a telegram dispatched on June 13th to the State Department, then-ambassador of the United States to Brazil, Melvin Levitsky, stated, "that this project represents not only a very important business opportunity (...), but it also represents an excellent opportunity to further the interests of the US government in the fields of environmental monitoring, air traffic safety and activities to combat drug trafficking, to name but a few".

This report was originally published by the Indigenist Missionary Council (CIMI).

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