There’s the kind of small talk you make when you sit down with someone, and there’s the kind you make when you are Jerry Brown.
The California governor, arriving for a meeting with several of his counterparts from South America on Tuesday, looked across the table and asked one of them if he he’d ever met the late Dom Helder Camara, the progressive Catholic archbishop from Brazil.
“Did you ever run into him?” Brown asked. “He used to defend people against the dictators.”
Brown recalled inviting Dom Helder to speak at a prayer breakfast in 1978, when Brown was governor before.
“He denounced the CIA and the Trilateral Commission and American intervention in Brazil,” Brown said. “But luckily his accent was so thick no one understood what he said. Otherwise, it would have been a scandal.”
Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian, called Dom Helder a “very impressive man.”
“The church needs more people like that,” he said. “Maybe (Pope) Francis is like that.”
Brown and the other governors were meeting in a 19th century mansion in Paris, where Brown came for the United Nations climate summit.
Marcelo Miranda, the governor of the Brazilian state of Tocantins, said something back to Brown, but there was a problem getting the translation over the headset. An aide stepped in to help.
“He said that you are a man of a lot of strength,” she said. “You have a lot of fiber … You’re a strong guy. And he said Dom Helder was also a strong guy.”