Portugal’s new bishop starts tenure fearing “new world war”

Américo Aguiar has been formally sworn in as Bishop of Setúbal 

Portugal’s newest ‘cardinal’ and now Bishop of Setúbal, Américo Aguiar, has begun his tenure openly fearing a new world war.

Wading straight into the drama of the times, he told journalists yesterday “we could be on the verge of a world war”.

Addressing the fall-out from the speech earlier this week by the UN secretary general, the bishop said he understood the statements – but also understands the strong reactions that have provoked.

“I am afraid, and I will pray, because we could be on the verge of a world war, because this area of the world is very sensitive and very complicated. And all it takes is for other actors to enter the conflict and we immediately have a third world war,” he said.

The bishop’s comments came as the wider Western media has indeed been alluding to the formation of ‘an axis of terror’. Media outlets, like the Telegraph, have been citing analysts warning that an emerging axis between Russia, Iran and Hamas could inflame tensions to a wider conflict, involving Israel’s Western supporters “including the US and UK”.

Packaging the situation into more ‘Portuguese terms’, Setúbal’s new bishop considered that the history of the Middle East is “an Arraiolos carpet (…), it’s very complicated. When we were assaulted by the images of October 7, I confess that I asked myself what Hamas’ objective was, because I was convinced that, after that, what is unfortunately happening was going to happen. There was no doubt in my mind,” he said.

As Lusa explains, Américo Aguiar blames the West “for what it has done in the Middle East”.

Everything the West has done in this area has been wrong. We have Iraq, that’s what it was, we have Syria, that’s what it was, we have Afghanistan, that’s what it was. And it’s always the same people who suffer: children, the elderly, families and dreams. All this is destroyed (…),” he said.

“We look at these peoples, who have a right to their history, a right to their dreams, a right to build their lives. And what we see are decisions by the West that have only harmed the lives of these men and women, whether in the Middle East or in Africa. 

“I think that the West, the United Nations, the great powers, have to put their hands on their conscience, to reflect on whether, in fact, we have made the best decisions for the good of these peoples, or whether we have always made decisions for the good of each (Western) country.”

The 49-year-old cleric who ‘shone’ in his organisation recently of Portugal’s World Youth Day celebrations began his ‘intervention’ yesterday with warnings also for Portugal’s government – discussing social problems that he considered “a government with an absolute majority” should have resolved more quickly and efficiently.

The country cannot go anywhere while people are earning over the course of 15-20 years €800 or €900 a month“, he said. “This way, there are no dreams”.

Meantime, Friday begins with the world still on tenterhooks: there is no certainty over the calls for a humanitarian ceasefire; there is no certainty that Israel will take a ‘step back’ from its declared intention to ‘wipe Hamas off the face of the earth’ and there is absolutely no certainty that many more innocent people will not die. ND