BY A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
EFFORTS are being made by the Vatican Council of the Laity to obtain the release of Brazilian leaders of the Young Christian Workers and the present and former Y.C.W. chaplains, arrested in Rio de Janeiro last month.
High on the agenda of the Laity Council's eighth plenary session, which ended recently in Rome, was the question of torture of political prisoners in Brazil, the fate of Senor Enrique Del Rio, the Y.C.W. president. and the arrests of the Y.C.W. leaders.
A member of the council, which is composed of 15 voting lay members and forms the highest organised lay body in the church, said he could not be specific about the steps being taken for fear of endangering negotiations. But he said "appropriate action" had been taken.
Senor Del Rio, who was in Lima, Peru, at the time of the Brazil arrests, was instructed by his international board to investigate and to inquire as to the charges and trial procedures.
He arrived in Rio with the Latin American Y C W
chaplain, Fr. Agostino Pretto, a Brazilian. Next day Fr. Pretto was arrested, but Senor Del Rio was not in his room at the time and escaped arrest. But the military authorities took all his personal belongings, including his money. papers and clothing.
The same day, Mrs. Maria Ironia Bezerra, former national president of the Y.C.W. girl's movement, and Fr. Manuel Jesus Suares, former national chaplain of the Brazilian Y.C.W. were arrested. Senor Del Rio is still in Brazil and. it is reported. is "being looked after" by the Brazilian Bishops' Conference.
Gen. Sizeno Sarmento, commander of the Rio de Janciro military region, at first denied and then admitted Cardinal de Barros Camara's accusation that the priests and Mrs. Ferreira had been arrested while attending courses at the Brazil ian Institute of Social Studies.
So far, the authorities have refused to disclose the place of detention or allow lawyers or clergy to visit the prisoners. In spite of pressure from the Brazilian Bishops' conference to stop these practices the government is continuing its harsh campaign against what military authorites call "Cornmunist subversion."
Observers believe that there is some degree of Marxist leadership in the opposition, but that most of the groups are ordinary citizens trying to correct what they feel are social and political injustices. The administration functions on the basis of two pro-regime parties supporting military decrees.
The Institute for social studies was established by the bishops of Brazil three years ago to give instruction to priests and lay leaders on Church renewal, social reform and other changes recommended by the Second vatican Council.