We Are Church Intl.


Remembering Maria João Sande Lemos RIP

Born 17 June 1938 - died 4 June 2024

Ashik Naz

As I read comments of you people, it's realises me that she was a very great lady having good heart for humanity and favor to reform the church.  She helped us during COVID-19 in Pakistan and won our hearts.  As she left us, we know she is at good place, where she will be watching us, praying for us and at a fix time we all will join her in the lawn of God.  Sometimes it is difficult to understand death but it's also encourages us that our earthly time is going over soon but eternity is in heaven.  Dear Maria Joao, you did your part in a good way, wish we also follow you to Serve the humanity and God. 

Didier Vanhoutte

My deepest and personal condolences... She was one of the first friends I met when I got involved in European organisations more than 20 years ago.

C h r i s t i a n   W e i s n e r

for the national team of We are Church Germany

On behalf of We are Church Germany, I would like to express our heartfelt condolences to Maria João's family and the Portuguese We are Church group. With her long experience of church and political commitment, Maria João was a strong pillar of the reform movement in Portugal and of We are Church International from the very beginning. We will miss her very much and remember her with gratitude. I hope that the seed she planted will flourish.

Gert Heizer

Why did she have to go?
A question with no answer. Only He has it.
I’ll miss this friendly and lovely women from Portugal whom I have known for so long.
The Lord tends on and cares for her, I’m sure.

Martha Heizer

I am very sad about the death of Maria Joao. She was a loyal supporter and a good fighter from the very beginning. I liked her very much and we often laughed together. I remember her in Rome in 1996 at the founding of IMWAC and on many other occasions. I'll look for all the photos I have of her and send them to you in small quantities.
So far away and yet so close
are the people for whom we weep.
They are far away from all sadness,
far from all darkness,
far from all suffering
and so far from our world.
They are completely in joy,
all in the light,
all in love
and very close to our hearts

Valerie Stroud

I am so sad to hear the news and offer my deepest sympathy and condolences.
I first met Maria João in 1996 with Ana Vincente.   We met many times at WAC and EN-RE conferences and events over the years and she always brought joy to my heart.   Maria João was an example of what the Church should be: welcoming, caring, interested, enthusiastic and resolute.   As I read Margarida's message I remembered arriving at Schiphol airport on one occasion and, coming out of Arrivals, being greeted with a beaming smile and big hug by Maria João.  It was good to travel onwards with a good friend.  May God's radiance shine upon her and may she rest in peace and rise to glory.

Pedro Freitas

I was as taken by surprise (and shock) as you were today when I heard about the passing of Maria João. She was my companion on so many WAC meetings, a very experienced companion, and our conversations both at the meetings and on travel ended up shaping both my views and my actions in this wonderful group. If we all owe her for her tireless work on behalf of Church reform, I have a very personal debt to her. 

Colm Holmes

I am shocked and saddened to hear that Maria Joāo Sande Lemos has died. She was indeed a fiery fighter for reforms in the Catholic Church.  I remember meeting her in Lisbon and a group of us enjoying a wonderful dinner with Maria Joāo and her sister! The first time I met Maria João was at a WAC International meeting in Dublin in November 2013 (see photos).
May she rest in peace.

Raquel Mallavibarrena

Dear Margarida, thanks for sharing this very sad information with us. I am very very sorry, Both, she and Ana, were really very good friends of mine and I agree that they both, jointly with Leonor and Mariana, were essential in the development of WAC Portugal and in the fight for a better world and a better Church. 
Please send my condolences to all of you in WAC Portugal and to her relatives. 

M. Margarida Pereira-Müller

I am very sorry to inform that this morning our dear friend Maria João Sande Lemos died.
She was a force of nature and a fiery fighter for reforms in the Catholic church. Together with Ana Vicente, Leonor Xavier and Mariana Mendes Pereira, who died last week,  she brought the We Are Church movement to Portugal and was since them the faced of the movement in our country.
Let’s pray for her and that she rests in peace.

Maria João Sande Lemos RIP

Maria João was born in Lourenço Marques, now Maputo, and attended a convent school until the fifth grade, then moved to the Salazar High School, where she completed her high school education.

From her childhood spent in Africa, she remembers happy times. The pleasant climate, the friendly people and the quality of life, which was nothing compared to similar times in Lisbon. According to her, in Mozambique the houses were larger, usually with a garden, and it was not necessary to be rich to be able to play tennis or ride horses.

She was in her early twenties when she came with the rest of her family to Lisbon (1961). A decision that pleased her, as she was aware of the excellent job opportunities that awaited her in the capital. As she was fluent in French and English, she quickly found work as a translator.

When the 1974 Revolution took place, at the age of thirty, she was a militant Catholic in various capacities and movements, such as the Teams of Our Lady and the Regional Committee of Catholic Teams. She remembers having lived that moment as a breath of fresh air, which is why she claims to be "a devotee of the 25th of April, because it was thanks to the revolution that the Portuguese were able to have rights, freedoms and guarantees"

She was at Sá Carneiro's side in the creation of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), founded on May 6, 1974, and together with her husband, who was a friend of Francisco Sá Carneiro, joined it a week later.

This militancy marked a before and after in their lives. So much so that she states, without hesitation, that the happiest years of her existence were those of her marriage and the period between 1974 and the death of Sá Carneiro (1980).

A staunch defender of women's rights, she is proud to have fought, with the support of Snu Abecassis, so that during the coalition government of the AD, the CDS would not be part of the Commission for the Condition of Women in the Secretary of State for the Family, which would have represented a setback in women's rights, as it would be the recognition that their life was limited to the family.

She maintained an intense party activity: she was part of the National Council and the Bureau of the Congress, and it was in this capacity that she integrated, for example, the Portuguese women's delegation that was invited by Ambassador Alcides Sakala, UNITA's representative in Portugal, to visit Jamba.

In 1992, she was part of the team of International Observers who monitored the elections in the People's Republic of Angola, a moment that gave her great satisfaction for the manifestation of civility, which in no way foresaw the terrible events that would happen next.

She was also an International Observer in the Guinea-Bissau elections (1994), then supported for several years the political regime that both Jonas Savimbi and Joaquim Chissano defended for their countries: Democracy.

In the same year, Maria Barroso created the Pro Dignitate Foundation, with the aim of preventing violence and promoting human rights. Maria João Sande Lemos accompanied her several times to Mozambique during the war process between Renamo and Frelimo.

She remembers, in particular, a trip to South Africa, where they met with Gatsha Buthelezi, and in which, after returning to Mozambique, Dr Maria Barroso asked President Joaquim Chissano to create a corridor for peace, through which those fleeing from Mozambique to South Africa could pass alive in Ressano Garcia, the border post between the two countries. The President agreed, and this was one of Dr Barroso's great victories.

Another of the causes in which she has always been committed was the defense of the rights of women and children, having participated, in 1995, in the delegation of the Commission on the Status of Women that was present at the Fourth United Nations Conference on Women, in Beijing. At the time, Maria João Sande Lemos was an advisor to the Secretary of State for Justice, Dr. Maria Eduarda Azevedo, who had been appointed by Professor Aníbal Cavaco Silva, Prime Minister at the time, as responsible for the affairs of this Commission.

She still remembers the emotion she felt for participating in such an important meeting, in which the future of women worldwide was discussed, and she says that she was very disgusted when she found that the Vatican delegation always voted on the proposals in line with countries such as Saudi Arabia or Qatar, demonstrating a conservatism that greatly displeased and saddened her.

In 1997, she was one of the co-founders, in our country, of the International Catholic Movement "We Are Church" (NSI), which defends the democratization of the church and the valorization of women's rights, including all roles, in addition to considering it essential to end mandatory celibacy. But the balance of the more than twenty-five years of activity of the NSI leaves her very disappointed and pessimistic about the renewal of the Church, because she recognizes that although there is a widespread feeling that things should change, she does not see any change in the misogynistic mentality of the hierarchies, She also regrets that Pope Francis seems to have not succeeded in reversing the lack of representation in the Vatican, which, in his view, "functions in an autocratic way."

Hello Matthias

By Martha Heizer

Am I glad that I can believe in the resurrection! I would find it hard to bear the thought that all that remains of Matthias are the ashes in the urn, our memories of him, his texts and his compositions. That is a lot - but too little.

There are people who think that this is what is called "lying the dreary reality into hope". But I say: Why should I resign myself to the dreary reality of having to say goodbye, when there is well-founded hope for a reunion?

I believe that he lives - differently and beyond our imagination, beyond our sight. But when I am plagued by the question of what his last days and hours might have been like, sick and alone, I believe I hear him say to me: "This need no longer bother you. Whatever it was like - it's over." And I see his small, modest smile, which he often had when he tried to explain to me something I didn't understand.

I believe that Matthias is alive, free and unburdened and happy, beyond all the troubles that plagued him during his lifetime, but with all the beauty and joy he experienced in life - and with the laughter with which he so often infected us.

Matthias was with us from the beginning of We Are Church. At that time, he was in his early 30s, worked for Siemens and flew around the world on business. He was an important part of our Vienna group and was also present at all events throughout Austria, always including our summer days, where we were able to get to know him better. In 2014 he was elected 2nd chairman of WsK and from then on he was a regular at our board meetings.

In the meantime he was no longer with Siemens and wrote on an adventurous PhD thesis. As far as I understood, his research question was how to bring psychoanalysis and artificial intelligence together, that is, in my completely abbreviated understanding, how to bring Freud into the computer. He spent years doing basic research on that: How do concepts arise? What is a helpful terminology for feelings? Can they be operationalized so that they are unambiguous? How could they then be broken down into small units of information without distorting them? In the process, he experienced many, many setbacks, developed programs himself, which were then overwhelmed again at some point, and so on. His sister Christine told that he, however, still recently reported a breakthrough. How to wish him that! And how it would be to be wished above all, if someone would start now to the continuation of his research...

Despite all this work, he always made time for us. He contributed creative ideas and wrote texts. He was, as Harald described it, a lateral thinker who often challenged us. But his inventive mind didn't stop him from being meticulous, even on such dry matters as the bylaws. He was something like our legal counsel, and in matters of statutes we could simply rely on him.

Matthias was also very involved internationally. The many letters of condolence from all over the world show how much he was appreciated. Mauro calls him the "natural chairman of our meetings", which refers especially to the European network "Churches on the Move", where Matthias always represented WsK-Ö.

And there, of course, was his core topic: still in our last newspaper he writes against the episcopal constitution of our church. It was unbearable to him that there is no separation of powers in the church, that those affected are not involved in the respective decisions, that the people at the levers of power are not accountable to anyone. He was deeply convinced that we need a church constitution in which the separation of powers is laid down in writing and can be enforced.

The fact that we already held a conference on this topic in 2010 with international experts is due to his constant urging. He also played a decisive role in the current version of a church constitution, which was submitted to the synod office in Rome with the support of many organizations. Our last Church People's Conference in October on the subject of the Church Constitution shows that he was finally able to convince all of us that there can be no profound reform in our Church without a Church Constitution. It took a lot of effort for him to come to this conference, he was not well, you could see that, but he was still very involved in the discussion - and we have a last photo of him where he is laughing heartily, and a last cafe visit afterwards.

I believe that Matthias is alive. It can't be that Matthias can't think now, that this mastermind no longer works. On the contrary, he will be happy to finally find answers to the many riddles of this world with which he has struggled. He will now find confirmed that he was not wrong with his great love for logic, but probably he will also see that it is not everything - or it is, but just divine logic.

Or his heart, which has stopped beating, but which lives on with all the love that Matthias had in him. "To be the face of love for one another," as he wrote in his We Are Church hymn, he really lived that and it cannot possibly have stopped. For this he will continue to have a heart, but just not this muscle, which is so central to our earthly life.

Also his friendly view of the world and the people in it, his sparkling humor, which in recent times has become quieter, a bit more restrained, more profound, all this lives on with him. Thank God!

Matthias probably raises both eyebrows now, as he often does when he has started to talk. I hear him very clearly: "I am alive. I am well. Better than I've ever been. Don't worry!"

The life of Bishop Jacques Gaillot, whose memory we honour, was singular.

The life of Bishop Jacques Gaillot, whose memory we honour, was singular.

By walking with him, we were able to measure what Jesus of Nazareth really expects from each one of us: peace, joy and attention to those who suffer, whatever their nature, whether physical, moral, social or even identity-related.

In 1995, despite the revocation of his office as Bishop of Evreux, Jacques Gaillot remained an active member of the Catholic Church. A tireless apostle of Christ, he has magnified his function as bishop of Partenia by resurrecting the diocese lost in the sands. In 2015, his fraternal meeting with Pope Francis, who put an end to his canonical relegation, did him justice. We know that Jacques Gaillot was sanctioned for his freedom of speech so far from the official right thinking, and for having created a supposed division inside his diocesan community. It should be remembered that Christ was certainly not easy to follow either, since, for example, he spoke to the Samaritan woman or affirmed a Sabbath made for man and not man for the Sabbath, acts which certainly shocked the society of his time.

Several movements were then formed to recognize themselves in Jacques Gaillot's message, to support him and to lead actions of opinion. The first of them, Partenia 2000, is happy to have accompanied Jacques Gaillot for 25 years by programming conferences and producing nearly 100 bulletins "La lettre de Partenia", open to his writings.

Being the last president of the Partenia 2000 association and with all its former members, we would like to thank Jacques Gaillot for his authentic commitment to the service of the Gospel and "the ones without home, job, resources, legal dcocuments…" and equally for his freedom of thought. We hope that his life, his way of being and his example will be definitively credited to the Catholic Church in order to erase what looks like a 20 year purgatory and to recognize that he was a true man of God.

Jean-Pierre Maillard
Former Chair Partenia 2000


The little flame that Jacques Gaillot gave us will burn for the rest of our lives.

We did not call him "Monsignor" but "Jacques" as he wished. Since January 1995, when Rome dismissed him from the See of Evreux to assign him "in partibus infidelium" to that of PARTENIA, his image and his word have spread throughout the world: his messages via the Internet translated into seven languages made the Gospel of Jesus known to the ends of the earth. Always close to the poorest, after leaving Evreux, he lived in a squat and then lived with the Spiritans for many years. Free of all ties, he moved around a lot, went to see prisoners with whom he established a lasting relationship. How many hospitalized friends did he visit: he accompanied some of them to the end. He welcomed everyone without asking if they were Christians or not. He was a brother, a true brother. From these messages, from his books, from his words, many groups called "PARTENIA" have lived for more than 25 years.

Some of them are still alive, gathered around the Gospel and - for most of the participants - animated by the concern for the poorest: people on the street or in prison... All this we owe to Jacques Gaillot, to the example of his life, to the peace that radiated from his person. Since that evening when we learned that he had entered into eternal PEACE, messages have been arriving from all over the world expressing the gratitude of people and groups who, often far from the Church, have set out on the road thanks to him, thanks to his testimony .... far from the incense, mitres and other distinctive signs of the princes of the Church, far from the pomp of the cathedrals and the processions organized by the most retrograde and reactionary fringe of our unfortunate Church which seems to be running towards its own demise!

What will remain is the little flame that Jacques Gaillot transmitted to us for the time that will be given to us.

Helene Dupont
Partenia Toulouse