Only in 1555 the first bishopric was created in Brazil, with headquarters in San Salvatore di Bahia and jurisdiction over the entire territory of the colony. The government of Portugal proved much slower in providing for the ecclesiastical order of Brazil than the Spanish one for the rest of America, where, before the date mentioned, dioceses had already been erected in San Domingo, Cuba, Mexico., in Bolivia, in Ecuador, in Peru. This relative neglect reflected, like other similar facts, the little interest which, in the early days, the discovery of Brazil aroused among the Portuguese, seduced by the riches of India and Africa. In the following century, however, the provisions of the Lisbon court had already changed in this regard, the bishopric of Bahia was raised to the dignity of metropolitan archbishopric. For Brazil religion, please check thereligionfaqs.com.
In the eighty-one years (1808-1889), which lasted the direct monarchical regime (united kingdom, empire), only three new dioceses were erected: San Pietro di Rio Grande del Sud, Diamantina, Fortaleza, and elevated to the rank of bishopric of the prelatures of Cuyabá and Goyaz. The insufficiency of such a small number of ecclesiastical centers for the religious needs of such a vast country, and of a constantly growing population, was evident. But the patronage regime hindered the natural development of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, with the length of its bureaucracy and sometimes with the opposition of an anticlerical spirit.
Proclaimed the republic in 1889, one of the first acts of the provisional government was the separation of the Church from the State (January 7, 1890). But this act was not dictated by any feeling of hostility towards Catholicism, the religion of almost the entire nation. Indeed, in accordance with the liberal spirit that had expressed itself in the political regiment of Brazil since the time of independence, they wanted to emancipate the church from its gilded servitude, and make it according to the Cavourrian principle “free in a free state”. The republican constitution (February 24, 1891), for whose definitive drafting had served as a guide the project drawn up by Ruy Barbosa, who, for the part concerning religious life, had been assisted by the great bishop Antonio de Macedo Costa, arranged and consolidated such situation.
The Holy See, of course, in homage to the norms of Catholic discipline, protested against the principle of separation; but Leo XIII and Cardinal Rampolla soon understood what and how many advantages it, after all, procured for the church, since not only the new laws assured it a true and complete freedom of action, but the dispositions proved to be ever more benevolent and friendly. of the rulers. Diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Brazil were not in the least disturbed for a single moment; on the contrary, they intensified more and more, especially after the visit of President Campos Salles to Leo XIII (1898): the papal representatives in Brazil were given back the degree of nunzî (1900), while since 1853, they had always been simple internunzî; for the first time the Roman purple was conferred on a prelate of the Latin America, in the person of Cardinal Arcoverde, archbishop of Rio de Janeiro (1905); and in 1918, when the government of the Republic and the national congress decided to raise some of the Brazilian legations to the category of embassies, the first to which this honor fell was the one established since 1826 at the Holy See. No contrast has ever arisen between this and the Brazilian Republic, while under the empire there had been two serious and long conflicts, the first concerning the provision of the diocese of Rio de Janeiro (1833-1840); the second, known as the “question of the bishops”, which lasted from 1871 to 1875, disturbing and saddening the religious conscience of the Brazilian people.
To properly assess the progress made by Catholicism in Brazil under the republic, it is enough to compare the ecclesiastical hierarchy existing at the end of the monarchy (1889) with that of our days. While in the eighty-one years of the monarchical regime, as we have said, only 3 new dioceses were erected, in the forty years that have just passed since its fall, another 54 have been founded. While in 1889 Brazil constituted a single ecclesiastical province (1 archdiocese and 10 dioceses), it currently has 16, that is, as many archdioceses, with 49 suffragan dioceses, 1 abbey and 12 prelatures nullius and 2 apostolic prefectures.