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The murder of Father Henrique is the work of
those who think they are saving Christian civilisation
by eliminating student leaders and priests.
(Dom Helder Câmara)
Father Antonio Henrique Pereira Neto, known as Padre Henrique, was born in Recife on 28 October 1940, to José Henrique Pereira da Silva Neto and Isaíras Pereira da Silva.
A sociologist and professor, he worked alongside the then-Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Dom Helder Câmara. He taught at the Juvenato Dom Vital, at the Recife Metropolitan Curia, at Marist, Nobrega and Vera Cruz Schools, at Derby Technical College and at the Faculty of Social Sciences.
He was ordained at the Torre Church in 1965, and devoted himself to the guidance of youth in the Olinda and Recife Archdiocese. In addition to assisting youth, Padre Henrique maintained contact with students persecuted by the military dictatorship and was clearly against the methods of repression used by them. He received death threats on several occasions by phone from the Communists Hunting Command (CCC). Despite the threats, Padre Henrique was not intimidated and continued with his work, for which he paid with his life.
On the evening of 26 May 1969, then 28 years old, Padre Henrique was abducted after attending a meeting with a group of young Catholics in the neighbourhood of Parnamirim. The next day, he was found dead with torture marks in a thicket on the UFPE campus.
The murder of Padre Henrique caused general commotion. Thousands of people with banners and placards attended the funeral that turned into a public demonstration against the military dictatorship and its repressive agencies directly responsible for the crime. The investigations never reached a definitive conclusion due to the involvement of the killers with the ruling regime. The massive and controversial case was archived and reopened several times without being solved up to the crime’s statute of limitations.
According to Isaíras Pereira da Silva, mother of Padre Henrique, in a statement made to the Jornal do Commercio in Recife on 24 July 1981, the persecution of his family began after the murder of her son. Her son Adolfo, who had been passed in a public contest for the Military Police, was arrested on charges of theft of sacred image; Henrique (another son), a seminarian, was also accused of subversion and went to live abroad; the fourth son lived under a false name to be free from imprisonment. Padre Henrique’s father could not stand the pressure, and emotionally distraught, died of heart problems.
No Departamento de Ordem Pública e Social (DOPS) de Pernambuco não há nenhum registro sobre o Padre Henrique, antes da sua morte. Os arquivos começam com o laudo técnico do Instituto de Polícia Técnica do Estado sobre o seu assassinato.
In the Pernambuco Department of Social and Public Order (DOPS) there are no records about Padre Henrique prior to his death. The files begin with the technical report from the State Technical Police Institute on his murder.
Recife, 31 July 2008.
(Updated on 14 September 2009)
Translated by Peter Leamy, March 2012.
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PADRE Henrique [Foto neste texto]. Disponível em:<http://noticias.uol.com.br/ultnot/2007/08/29/ult23u534.jhtm>. Acesso em: 1º oct. 2012.
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Source: ANDRADE, Maria do Carmo. Padre Henrique. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at: <https://pesquisaescolar.fundaj.gov.br/en/>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009