A new way of being Church? A case study of the Base Christian Community of Vila Prudente, Brazil

Noel Patrick O'Meara, Fordham University


The Base Christian Community phenomenon in Latin America has been presented by some commentators as a new way of being Church in the World today. An in-depth case study of one such community, situated in a favela in Sao Paulo, Brazil, is presented. The community of Vila Prudente, the first favela of the city, offers microcosm what is present in the macrocosm of Brazil in particular, and Latin America in general. What goes on or not in Vila Prudente is a challenge to the famous "option for the poor" made at the Medellin Conference by the Institutional Church some 18 years ago. The study chooses categories to examine what it is that makes this particular base community viable. These categories include the leadership and its training--Paulo Freire's personal contribution to this training is a highlight--and the tension between this leadership and the rank and file membership of the community is of interest; the spawning of a powerful movement by the community which has led it to confrontation with both the municipal and state powers, is another category examined; the pre-eminent place of conscientization is also looked at, and how this clashes with the traditional religious values of the people. Likewise the additional tensions with the Institutional Church which the community experiences is examined. How the local priest sees all of this and his own rather unusual approach to his ministry, raises questions which are both practical and profound for the future of the Church in Latin America, at least. The study concludes that the phenomenon is a new way of being Church, but much more, that the data suggests that the novelty is already out of date in Latin America, and a more radical and revolutionary effort on the part of these communities to go further along the road started some 20 years ago, is now to hand.

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Recommended Citation

O'Meara, Noel Patrick, "A new way of being Church? A case study of the Base Christian Community of Vila Prudente, Brazil" (1988). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8813581.