8 January 2013
Two generations come together for a Chrism ceremony at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Paradise in São Paulo, Brazil. (photo: Izan Petterle)
Did you know that the largest Melkite Greek Catholic community in the world is in Brazil? We took readers to the cathedral in São Paolo two years ago:
Located in the Paraíso (Portuguese for paradise) neighborhood in the heart of South America’s largest city and steps from its busiest thoroughfare, Paulista Avenue, the imposing Byzantine–style cathedral seems an unlikely landmark.
Yet, the cathedral and the Arab parishioners who built it have defined Paraíso since the 1940’s when construction began. By then, many of São Paulo’s Arab Christian immigrant families were living in the working–class neighborhood. In subsequent decades, the Arab community steadily grew, at times in sudden bursts, when emigrants fled conflict in Lebanon, Syria or elsewhere in the Middle East in search of a better life in the New World. Hearing about the opportunities in Brazil — often from relatives or friends already in Paraíso — São Paulo quickly became a preferred destination.
Today, the cathedral serves as the seat of the bishop of Our Lady of Paradise in São Paulo, spiritual home to an estimated 400,000 people &mash; the largest Melkite Greek community not only in the Americas but in the world.
Though Paraíso remains the center of Brazil’s Melkite cultural and spiritual life, its demographics have changed dramatically in recent years. Social success and economic prosperity among first– and second–generation Melkite Arab–Brazilians have prompted most to choose more affluent residential communities in São Paulo and its sprawling suburbs.
Read more about Paradise in Brazil in the July 2011 issue of ONE.
Tags: Melkite Brazil