Rio carnival

By Janet Tappin Coelho

A Roman Catholic priest has shocked his congregation by becoming the first religious leader in Brazil to dance samba in a Rio carnival.

Father Bráulio Francisco Tibúrcio, 41, took off his dog collar to perform in the Grande Rio Samba School parade in the Rio de Janeiro Mardi Gras on Monday morning (27).

Dressed in one of the school’s themed costumes, an over the top black power outfit, the samba-loving priest joined thousands of dancers to put in an exuberant performance.

It was a far cry from the solemn and revered surroundings he is used to.

Togged out in a fluorescent lime green jacket with extravagant orange lapels, a spotted black and white shirt with a garish gold tie, fantastically flashy stripped gold and orange flared trousers, topped off with a huge black afro wig, the fleet-footed father couldn’t have been further from his cassock if he tried.


Tiburcio, who is normally the parish priest for Nossa Senhora do Perpétuo Socorro Church, in Belo Horizonte, south east Brazil said: “I’ve had a dream for a long time to dance in carnival. Three years ago I approached the Grande Rio samba school because I was serving at a church in the Duque de Caxias area where the school is based and I wanted to see if it was possible to take part.”

But his plans were side-tracked when he was transferred to Belo Horizonte some 320 miles away.

To achieve his goal Tibúrcio made a 16-hour round trip every week for a month from Belo Horizonte to Rio in the run up to the start of the world renowned five-day carnival which kicked off last Friday (24).

He would celebrate mass on Sunday, then early Monday morning he would drive around eight hours to Duque de Caxias, a municipality in Rio, to practice for several hours at the samba school.


Only five vacancies were available in the section the pastor wanted to dance in, with 15 competitors vying for the coveted slots.

The father revealed that after a lot of praying and sambaing he won a place in the line-up.
He said: “I believe I was chosen on merit and because of my effort. I was very happy that the school acknowledged this.

“I made it clear from the very beginning to the organisers that I could not devote my time or life to carnival as I have another role. I was able to manage both areas well enough so neither one disturbed the other.”

According to reports, the Catholic Church did not oppose the idea of the father dancing in the carnival but made it clear his decision should not interfere with his duties.

As Tibúrcio sambaed on Monday morning with boundless energy, the crowd rose to cheer him on.


And despite the shock from his faithful flock that he wanted to cast off his priestly robes for a carnival costume, the popular priest revealed he had received many messages of support from his congregation and even his cassock colleagues.

According to the dancing cleric, a number of priests praised his courage and revealed they also held a secret desire to parade in the carnival.

As he finished his quick-footed and spirited sambaing down the sambodromo, the pint-size priest was so out of breath he could hardly speak.

“That was wonderful, a real blessing,” he said panting as he exited the stadium before adding that he believes his efforts will bring him closer to the people.

Last week evangelical ministers condemned a woman for dancing topless in the carnival after she claimed her priest had given his blessing for her to do so semi-naked.