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Brazil’s Cardinal Hummes a Papal Candidate

April 6, 2005

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) _ As bishop of a working-class district 30 years ago, Claudio Hummes gave refuge to metalworkers staging an illegal strike _ among them a fiery union leader named Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Silva is now Brazil’s president, and Hummes has risen as well, to the rank of cardinal. As speculation mounts about the possibility of a Latin American pope, Hummes’ name repeatedly surfaces _ the top candidate from the world’s most populous Roman Catholic country.

Like other contenders, Hummes has tried to play down such talk.

``In the conclave, all these things will be secondary,″ said the archbishop of Sao Paulo. ``It will not matter where he comes from, from which continent. It will matter that the cardinals will be in front of God, under oath, and they will have to choose the one they think is the man for this moment in the history of the church and the world.″

Named cardinal in 2001, Hummes, 70, _ pronounced HOO-mez _ already has made his mark on the Brazilian church.

As the successor of Sao Paulo’s popular Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns, a political activist who defended opponents of the 1964-85 military regime, Hummes initially was regarded with reservations. Skeptics viewed him as part of a Church plan to divide and depoliticize Brazil’s largest archdiocese.

Today, he has won respect as a conservative on doctrine and a progressive on social issues, though not sharing Arns’ explicit support for radical ``liberation theology.″

``We are living in a period of ebullition,″ Hummes said. ``The Church’s challenge is to keep pace with the ongoing progress we are seeing so it can have answers to the new problems that are arising.″

Among his concerns is the rapid growth of evangelical Protestant sects in Brazil, said Monsignor Dario Bevilacqua, spokesman for the Sao Paulo archdiocese.

``He has said that this growth should alert us Catholics to the fact that our evangelism has been very superficial,″ Bevilacqua said. ``We have not done enough to broaden our efforts.″

Hummes believes in ``bringing the Church closer to the people, making the church less elitist, giving it a more active role in people’s lives,″ the spokesman said.

While Hummes has worked to improve relations among Brazil’s Christians, Jews and Muslims, he takes a strict line on gay rights, abortion, celibacy and the use of condoms _ all major issues in Brazil.

``He has always been in line with the Vatican’s official position,″ Bevilacqua said. ``He has always followed the guidelines and policies set by Pope John Paul.″

Hummes is a great grandson of a German immigrant who came to Brazil in the 19th century and married a Brazilian woman of German descent. Hummes was born Aug. 8, 1934, in Montenegro, a small city in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul.

Ordained a Franciscan priest in 1958, he obtained a doctorate in philosophy from Rome’s Pontifical Antonianum University four year later. He concluded his studies at the Ecumenical Institute of Bossy in Geneva in 1968, returned to Brazil and taught philosophy at two seminaries and a Catholic university.

In 1975, Hummes was appointed bishop of Santo Andre, an industrial district on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, where he gained national attention as a defender of the striking metalworkers. Strikes were illegal and the military regime considered them a threat to national security.

The door of Hummes’ church was always open to strikers and union leaders _ including Silva _ who were fleeing from riot troopers. Hummes’ defense of the strikers made him a star of the Church’s progressive wing, and he gained attention in Rome as well.

In 1996, John Paul appointed Hummes archbishop of Fortaleza, capital of the northeastern state of Ceara. Two years later, he was transferred to Sao Paulo, home to some 6 million Roman Catholics.

In his first day as Sao Paulo’s archbishop, Hummes lashed out at the globalized market economy for the ``misery and poverty affecting millions around the world.″

``Market economy has reinvented poverty in many countries,″ Hummes said. ``We must find a new alternative _ a third way _ to guarantee economic growth without sacrificing the poor and causing unemployment.″

Arns, Hummes’ predecessor, was very popular with Catholics in Sao Paulo but earned Vatican displeasure for supporting liberation theology _ which sought to more actively engage the Church in efforts to combat poverty and social injustice. To rein in the popular doctrine and its defenders, the Vatican in 1989 carved up the Sao Paulo diocese into five parts, and put conservative bishops in charge of the four new districts.

Hummes, when he succeeded Arns in 1998, made clear that he would be more conservative in terms of doctrine.

``The fundamental mission of the Church is to spread the Gospel and bring people in closer contact with Jesus Christ,″ Hummes said. ``And it is through this contact that we can start correcting social injustices.″

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