City councilman in Brazil who led protest interrupting Mass asks for leave of absence

City councilman in Brazil who led protest interrupting Mass asks for leave of absence.

Curitiba city councilman Renato Freitas / Rodrigo Fonseca / CMC

Curitiba, Brazil, Feb 21, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Renato Freitas, a city councilman for Curitiba who led a protest interrupting Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary church in the city, has asked for a leave of absence, citing health problems.

The request was made Feb. 16, accompanied by a medical certificate that doesn’t state the cause for his request. The city council says that Freitas has received death threats.

ACI Digital, CNA’s Portuguese language sister news agency, asked for specifics on the death threats, if they were reported to the police, and what health problems the councilman has, but no response was received by press time.

“The councilman has been subject to constant and increasingly violent threats, including death threats and racial slurs, which is why he needed a respite to recuperate from so much violence,” says a statement from an advisor.

In his request submitted to the Curitiba city council, Freitas asks that his absence from the council sessions be justified by the medical certificate. He is expected to be out until next week. 

The Board of Directors of the Municipality of Curitiba has accepted four requests for Freitas to be censured for breach of decorum. The council Ethics Committee is investigating the case.

The demonstration interrupting Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary church took place Feb. 5.The demonstrators shouted accusations of “racist” and “fascist.” 

The protest was held “in memory of and justice for” two black men, Moïse Kabagambe and Durval Teófilo Filho. Kabagambe, a Congolese immigrant, was beaten to death by three men on Jan. 24 at a kiosk in Rio de Janeiro, while Filho was shot in front of his house in São Gonçalo after a sergeant mistook him for a thief. Freitas is also black.

In a subsequent explanation, the councilman said the site of the protest was chosen “because of the historical relationship of the place with the black population of Curitiba.” Completed in 1737, the church of Our Lady of the Rosary of Black Men of São Benedito was built “by and for the slaves, since black men and women could not enter other churches in our city.” 

Four days later, Freitas made a statement about the incident during a regular session of the city council and apologized for his attitude.

“Some people were deeply offended and for those people I sincerely and deeply apologize. I’m sorry. It was not, in fact, intended to hurt or in any way offend anyone’s creed. Even because I myself, as everyone knows, am a Christian,” Freitas said Feb. 9.

Although the demonstrators carried flags of the Workers’ Party, to which Freitas belongs, inside the church, the party said it was not involved in the disturbance in any way.

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