Father Jonas Abib passed away on December 12, 2018. He was 85 years old. He was the leader of Canco Nova, which in Portuguese means “New Song” and was one of Brazil’s most important Catholic charismatic communities. He had been sick with myeloma, a type of cancer, since 2021.
Others have said that Abib is against indigenous spirituality and is close to the right-wing government of Jair Bolsonaro, who was the former president of Brazil. Those who back him say that he has a special way of getting in touch with and organizing young people.
One of the first people in South America to promote Charismatic Catholic Renewal was Salesian Father Abib (CCR). In 1978, he started Canco Nova with the goal of building a community of lay people and clergy members who were moved by the Holy Spirit.
Abib was a musician who wrote popular Catholic songs that were known all over Brazil. He also worked hard to spread the Good News through the media. In the 1980s, he started a Canco Nova radio station and a Canco Nova TV station.
Today, Canco Nova‘s media outlets reach millions of people in Brazil, Portugal, and many other places. The media group also includes a publishing house and a record company.
There are groups in Brazil, Paraguay, Mozambique, Portugal, Italy, France, and Israel, among other places. Longtime friend Father Dilermando Cozatti said, “He was a holy, simple, and humble man who did everything a priest should do.”
Cozatti first met Abib in 1959, when Abib was his teacher at a seminary in Lavrinhas, So Paulo. They worked together in many ways over the years, mostly with groups of young Catholics.
“He had tried living with other people by the end of the 1960s. Cozatti told Crux that his group thought that the best way to be free was to live in a community. He also said that it was clear that this movement was the beginning of something new.
After Canco Nova was made official, Abib had to stay away from the Salesians’ daily life, but his friends say he never gave up on Saint John Bosco’s ideas. Canco Nova joined the Salesian family officially in 2009, a year after it was recognized by the Pope.
Over time, Canco Nova also spent money on education by building a school and a college. The group started the first philosophy class that didn’t count for credit at the start of the 21st century. In 2011, the Brazilian government gave the college its official approval. It also offered classes in theology and other topics.
“Father Abib’s plan was to make new men for a new world. “Both communication and education were important to him,” said Lino Rampazzo, who has been a professor at the college since it opened.
Rampazzo remembered that Abib always talked about how important it was to have challenging, high-quality courses. “It was part of the spirit of the Salesian order. He hoped that it would become a college one day,” he said. About Abib’s death, Catholics in Brazil had a lot to say. In 2007, he was given the title “monsignor.”
“Monsignor Jonas Abib will always be remembered as a godly man who loved Jesus Christ. Through the strength of his faith, he was an inspiration on the Church’s missionary journey, said Archbishop Walmor Azevedo de Oliveira of Belo Horizonte, who is the head of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB).
In a statement, Cardinal Odilo Scherer, who is the Archbishop of Sao Paulo, talked about how Abib used the media to spread the word about God. He also said that Abib “gave his entire life to the Church, which he loved and served so much.” Many Catholics talked about how sad they were about Abib’s death and how they hoped that one day he would be made a saint on social media.
“He lived like a saint. “He was the most devoted son of the Church. He knew what God had planned for him, but he never bragged about it,” Cozatti said. Some people in the Church don’t like the idea, though, because they think Abib’s legacy is a bit of a mess.
“He was a man with many sides. He was very smart, got along well with people, and was good at talking to them. But he believed in magic and thought he had healing powers, said Fernando Altemeyer Jr., a professor of religious studies at the Pontifical Catholic University of So Paulo. He was talking about “Masses of cure and liberation” and other similar events.
Altemeyer agrees that Abib built one of the largest Catholic communities in Brazil in just a few decades, but he also remembers that Abib “spoke in a very conservative way and even supported [President Jair] Bolsonaro.”
The president, who was sad about Abib’s death and wrote about it on social media, went to Canco Nova’s office soon after being elected in 2018. Abib welcomed him with open arms and prayed with him.
“The people didn’t choose you; God did. So, Canco Nova welcomes you with open arms and tells you, Mr. President, to do God’s will, which will change Brazil completely,” Abib then told Bolsonaro.
The current leader, who lost to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and will leave office on December 31, was a very controversial leader, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when he tried to downplay how serious the disease was. Several times, church leaders criticized him for how he talked about guns and didn’t do enough to protect the environment, especially the Amazon.
Altemeyer said that Abib “was not in sync with the CNBB or Pope Francis” because of his “brutal intolerance toward non-Christian religions.” Because of this, it’s not fair to ask for the process to be done quickly.
Faustino Teixeira, a retired theology professor at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora and an expert in interfaith dialogue, thinks that Abib’s views on other religions are a huge stain on his legacy.
Teixeira talks about how Abib’s book Sim, Sim! caused trouble. No, No! – Reflexes de Cura e Libertaco (“Yes, Yes! No, No! – Reflections on Healing and Liberation”) in 2008, when a judge in Bahia State did order that all copies be taken out of bookstores for “practicing and inciting discrimination or religious prejudice.”
In his book, Abib wrote that Brazilians are Catholic but have a “mindset strongly marked by Spiritism, both [Allan] Kardec’s Spiritism […] and the Umbanda, Candomblé, and other branches of the African tradition.”
He said this is how the devil shows himself and that “Spiritist doctrine is bad.” “Spiritism is like an epidemic and must be fought like one: it is a focus of death.” The lawsuit went all the way to the Supreme Court, which said that the book was part of the “clash of religions” and is protected by religious freedom, even though it was “intolerant, pedantic, and prescient.”
Teixeira said, “This book caused a lot of trouble because it showed how Canco Nova sees other religions, which is very different from what the Second Vatican Council thought.” Teixeira said, “The idea of a Catholic centrality that must avoid ecumenism goes against the Second Vatican Council and Pope Francis’ papacy.”
On December 13, he posted an article about Abib’s anti-ecumenical ideas and the controversy that the book caused on social media. “I was attacked by several people, especially young people,” he said.
Manoel Godoy, who teaches theology at the St. Thomas Aquinas Institute in Belo Horizonte, first met Father Jonas Abib when he was a seminarian in the 1970s. He also thinks that his visions and those of Canco Nova have “ecclesiological inconsistencies” with the Second Vatican Council, which opened the Church to the world.
He told Crux, “Both Monsignor Abib and Canco Nova deny many times that they are part of the world and that they need to talk to people from other groups.” He said that the Canco Nova media “only show one side of the Church and never show that there are other sides.”
“They have a one-sided view of the Church and take an apologetic, proselytizing stance,” he said. He said that Canco Nova’s charismatic practices, like healing and glossolalia, “reduce the Church to a therapeutic dimension,” which is very similar to how Neo-Pentecostal churches do things.
Fernando Altemeyer Jr. said that CNBB put out a document that was critical of CCR and the idea of “baptism in the Spirit” a long time ago.
“Those were his two different ideas. He was a strange person. But he left behind a well-run group. Canco Nova will definitely go on without him,” Altemeyer said at the end… For more news like this, you can only find us on Lee Daily.