Luis Fernando Castillo Mendez

Luis Fernando Castillo Mendez

Dom Luis Fernando Castillo Méndez is patriarch of the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church (ICAB - "Igreja Católica Apostólica Brasileira"), an independent catholic church. The Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church lists 48 dioceses, and is the mother church of the Worldwide Communion of Catholic Apostolic National Churches (ICAN -"Igrejas Católicas Apostólicas Nacionais)", a loose communion of churches in 14 countries, with an estimated 2-3 million members worldwide.


Early life and ministry

Castillo Méndez was born in Caracas, Venezuela on December 4, 1922. After studying in the Roman Catholic archdiocesan seminary in Caracas, he was ordained a priest at Solsona in Catalonia (Spain) on Thursday, August 10, 1944, by Bishop Valentín Comellas y Santamaría. Upon returning to Venezuela, at a time of massive upheaval in the country, Castillo Méndez became involved in a movement called the "Curas Criollos" (Native Priests or literally 'Creole Priests'). Having learned through periodicals about the church reform movement led by Dom Carlos Duarte Costa in Brazil, and the founding of the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church in 1945, Castillo Méndez entered into correspondence with Duarte Costa. [ "Luis Fernando Castillo Mendez" in "Encyclopedia Tiosam"] ]

eparation from the Catholic Church

In 1947 Castillo Méndez and three other clergy formally established the "Venezuelan Apostolic Church." Like the Brazilian church led by Duarte Costa, the Venezuelan church was to be independent of the Vatican, would use Spanish instead of Latin in the liturgy, and would permit its clergy to marry. Castillo Méndez filed the new church's organizational papers with the Interior Ministry in early 1947, stating that 250 fellow priests had elected him Bishop of Caracas. The Minister of Interior immediately ordered the Federal police to ensure that Castillo Méndez not wear the vestments or insignia of the office of Bishop."Venezuelan Schism Hit: Archbishop Declares Excommunication of 4 Priests in Move", The New York Times, March 9, 1947, p. 5] However, the new church did receive public approval from the Democratic Action and Communist Parties. [ Donis, Manuel. "Yépez Castillo: un historiador didáctico", "El Ucabista", December 1998, p. 36] ]

On March 8, 1947 Castillo Méndez and the other three founders of the Venezuelan church were formally excommunicated from the Catholic Church. Catholic Archbishop Lucas Guillermo Castillo stated in the excommunication directive that the four priests had "violated fundamental dogma of the Roman Catholic Church and held concepts blasphemous and offensive to the person and authority of Pope Pius XII." The notice further stated that any Catholics who supported the new church would also be excommunicated.

Entry into the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church

In 1947 Castillo Méndez was serving as pastor of St. Teresa's parish in Caracas. [ "Patriarch Luis Fernando Castillo Mendez" on CANC-UK website] ] Having been elected leader by his fellow priests in the nascent national church, he sought to go to Brazil to receive episcopal consecration from Duarte Costa. However, the Venezuelan government did not consent to this trip, nor would it allow Duarte Costa to enter Venezuela. In the end, Castillo Méndez and Duarte Costa made arrangements to meet in the Panama Canal Zone, a territory under the jurisdiction of the United States, which did not have formal diplomatic relations with the Vatican. On May 3, 1948, Duarte Costa consecrated Castillo Méndez as a bishop, with the title of Bishop of Caracas and Primate of Venezuela.

Castillo Méndez's consecration led to his official banishment from Venezuela. He arrived in Brazil on June 21, 1950, where he was installed by Duarte Costa as parish vicar and diocesan bishop of Uberlandia in the state of Minas Gerais. In 1957 he was moved to Rio de Janeiro where he served as auxiliary bishop. He was reassigned to Brasilia in 1960 or 1961, where he served as bishop of the state of Goias. In 1961 he acquired Brazilian citizenship.


Upon Bishop Carlos Duarte Costa's death in 1961, leadership of the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church was apparently in a flux for several years, with several individuals leading or claiming to lead the denomination, often for very brief periods of time. [Peter F. Anson, "Bishops At Large", London: Faber & Faber, 1964, pp.534-535 and Addenda] Some sources indicate that Castillo Méndez was leader of the church as early as 1961. Clearly by 1982 he was undisputed leader, elected that year as president of the Episcopal Council of ICAB. In 1988 he was designated Patriarch of ICAB, and in 1990 he was named Patriarch of ICAN, the church's international communion, positions which he holds to the present day (2007). Dom Luis, as he is now known ("Dom" being the honorific title for bishops in Brazil), is considered to be more theologically conservative than his predecessors. He uses the traditional Roman Pontifical for all episcopal consecrations. However, like most independent catholics, he denies papal infallibility and does not support obligatory priestly celibacy.

Note on his name

As a native of Venezuela, Luis Fernando Castillo Méndez's family name (patronym) is Castillo, with Méndez being his mother's family name. In Spanish-speaking countries, people normally have two surnames. One is inherited from the father, the other from the mother. The father's surname is written before the mother's surname, and when addressing a person formally, one usually uses the father's surname (e.g. Señor Castillo). "(See article Spanish naming customs)"

However, as an immigrant to Brazil, where the custom is to place the father's surname in the final position, Castillo Méndez is now normally addressed as Méndez, even though this is technically his mother's surname.

Another Brazilian custom is to address bishops and high-ranking church officials with the honorific title of "Dom" followed by the individual's first name. Thus Castillo Méndez is often addressed as "Dom Luis."


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