Brazilian archbishop who opposed dictatorship dies

Sao Paulo (AFP) –


Evaristo Arns, a much-loved senior leader of Brazil's Catholic Church who stood up for human rights during the country's brutal two decades of dictatorship, died Wednesday. He was 95.

He died of complications linked to pneumonia after being hospitalized with lung problems on November 28, Sao Paulo's archbishop Odilo Scherer said.

"He has returned to God," he said.

Arns was a priest for 71 years, rising to archbishop of Sao Paulo, Brazil's biggest city, and spent 43 years as a cardinal.

After being ordained in 1945, he studied at Sorbonne University in Paris and began a prolific writing career that included authoring 57 books. As he rose through the ecclesiastical ranks, he made his name promoting programs dedicated to helping the poor.

However, it was for his stand against torture during the 1964-85 military dictatorship that he became most famous.

He denounced the torture of a priest in January 1971 shortly after becoming archbishop, and used church media outlets to pressure the government over its repressive policies.

Argentine human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel said he "was saved twice" by Arns from the Brazilian regime.

President Michel Temer paid homage to Arns on Wednesday, saying Brazil had "lost a defender of democracy."