‘The country has woken up to its responsibilities and people are slowly winning their rights as citizens,’ says Divaldo Franco, Brazil’s most popular spiritual medium
The Observer, Sunday 26 January 2014
‘Spiritualism is growing in Brazil because it attends to the cultural, emotional and spiritual needs of society’: Divaldo Franco
Eighty-six years old and looking not a shade over 60, Divaldo Franco is Brazil’s most important spiritual medium, selling more than 10m books worldwide. His home is in the middle of one of Brazil’s most violent favelas, Pau da Lima, on the outskirts of Salvador. But Franco’s world is serene and peaceful.
It’s set inside the physical embodiment of his life’s work, the Mansão do Caminho – an institution which provides housing, education and care for children and young people. Where once stood a giant rubbish dump the Mansão is a vast, ultra-modern community complex. The building is regarded as untouchable by the drug traffickers as many of them, or their families, use its services.
Hundreds of mothers drop their kids off every day at the free crèche. More than 30,000 children are estimated to have passed through the Mansão over the past 60 years. A large part is financed by the sale of Franco’s books. He claims to channel spirits and transcribe their words in a method known as “psychography”.
It all came about because of a vision he had in 1948, aged 21. “I saw a huge number of children and an old man,” he recalls. “I went up to the elderly man. He turned around and I realised it was me in old age. And a voice said to me: ‘This is what you will do with your life.'”
He was later introduced to the doctrine of spiritism, coined by the French writer Allan Kardec in 1857, which believes in the existence of, and communication with, spirits through mediums. “Spiritism is growing in Brazil because it attends to the cultural, emotional and spiritual needs of society,” he says.
Over the years, Franco has adopted more than 600 abandoned children, many of whom now have their own children and grandchildren, and Franco sees hope in that youngest generation.
“We are living through a remarkable moment,” he says. “The country has woken up to its responsibilities and the people are slowly winning their rights as citizens and moving towards democratic freedoms and social justice. The country has consciously prepared for 2014, when the whole world will be following the football, to show that the nation has higher values, above those of carnival or even football, and that it is a strong nation that is ready to take on the here and now.”
Despite his age, the diminutive Franco still packs his own suitcase and travels the world alone, as he has done for decades, delivering hundreds of lectures.
“These trips open doors for those who will come in the future,” he says. “My message is of love, of hope, of caring. To say to people that our lives have a meaning and that we are not on the Earth to suffer.'”