By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

APARECIDA, Brazil, February 12, 2008 ( – Approximately 40,000 people packed the second-largest basilica in the world last week in Brazil’s First International Congress in Defense of Life, opening a new stage in Brazil’s formerly lukewarm battle for life and family values.

“The attacks that we observe today against human life, respected brothers, are only one of the lines of the front that represents the most grave problem that the Church currently faces, and whose causes we must understand in all of their depth if we want the light of the Gospel to be able to continue fermenting the humanity that we were given by Christ,” said Carmo Rhoden, the Bishop of Tabuaté, in his opening address.

The Congress brought together numerous groups and individuals from Latin America and Europe to discuss human life and family issues in the Basilica of Our Lady of Conception Aparecida, Brazil’s most sacred and visited Catholic shrine.

Attendees and supporters included the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops (CNBB), the National Pro-Life and Pro-Family Association, the Paulist Association in Defense of Movements in Defense of Life, the National Association of Pro-Life Women, the Parliamentary Front Against the Legalization of Abortion, Human Life International, and the Latin American Alliance for the Family, as well as members of the Brazilian National Congress, state legislatures, and municipal councils, and doctors and bioethicists.

The work of the gathering included the creation of the Declaration of Aparecida in Defense of Life, which outlined an aggressive strategy to protect human life and family values in Brazil, including permanent observers in the Brazilian National Congress to track anti-life bills and promote pro-life legislation.

It also formally petitioned the United Nations “for a declaration of the moratorium on the death penalty around the world, specifically of the unborn, retarded, and disabled”, joining itself to a similar call made recently by the Vatican.

The Declaration also denounced the intervention of large international foundations in Brazil and worldwide, in particular the Rockefeller Foundation’s Population Council, which it accused of being “anti-birth”.  It noted that since the Population Council’s foundation in the 1950s, a host of other organizations have been created by wealthy foundations, camouflaging its program under the guise of “reproductive rights”.

The First International Congress for the Defense of Life is part of the Brazilian bishops’ national campaign, “Fraternity and the Defense of Life”, which was officially announced last week.  The campaign will distribute pro-life literature to Catholics at parishes throughout the country and will directly confront politicians who take positions contrary to the sanctity of life (see recent LifeSiteNews coverage at

According to the Argentine publication Clarín, the Catholic bishops of Brazil are now “at war” with the administration of socialist president Luiz Lula da Silva, whose health minister openly supports the further decriminalization of abortion in the country. 

Currently, abortion in Brazil is only legal in cases of rape, and when the life of the mother is threatened.

Related coverage:

Brazilian Bishops Launch Major National Campaign Against Abortion, Euthanasia, and Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Brazilian Government’s National Health Conference Rejects Abortion