Cardinal Cláudio Hummes dies at 87

The Franciscan cardinal passed away this Monday. His long ministry was dedicated, in particular, to the accompaniment of indigenous peoples, of which he brought the voice to the Synod for the Pan-Amazon Region in 2019.

Salvatore Cernuzio – Vatican City

With a note of “regret and hope”, Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, Archbishop of São Paulo, announced the death this Monday, July 4, of Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, Archbishop Emeritus of São Paulo and Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy:

I communicate, with great regret, the death of the Most Eminent Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, Archbishop Emeritus of São Paulo and Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, today, at the age of 88 years incomplete, after a prolonged illness, which he endured with patience and faith in God. The doctor Dr. Rodrigo Paulino confirmed the death of the Cardinal, which took place a little after 9 am on 07/04/2022. Born in Salvador do Sul (RS), on 08.08.1934, he entered the religious life of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor; he received priestly ordination on August 3, 1958 and episcopal ordination on May 25, 1975. he was diocesan bishop of Santo André (SP), Archbishop of Fortaleza and Archbishop of São Paulo. He was made a member of the College of Cardinals by Pope Saint John Paul II in the Consistory of 21 February 2001. From 2006 to 2011 he worked alongside Pope Benedict XVI in Rome as Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy. Back in Brazil, he held the position of President of the Episcopal Commission for the Amazon, of the CNBB, and of the newly created Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon (CEAMA). I invite everyone to raise prayers to God in gratitude for the operative life of the late Cardinal Hummes and in suffrage in his favor, so that God may welcome him and give him eternal life, as he believed and hoped. May God welcome our deceased brother, Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, into his eternal abodes and make eternal light shine for him. His body will be veiled in the Metropolitan Cathedral of São Paulo, where Holy Masses will be celebrated at different times to be announced in due course.

omnes you fratres” (“You are all brothers”) reads the episcopal coat of arms, echoing the expression of Saint Francis of Assisi, “Fratelli tutti” which also inspired the Pope’s latest encyclical. Another evident sign of that unity of purpose and thought that linked him to the other Francis, the reigning Pontiff, whose name – a result so unprecedented for the world ten years ago, was unprecedented – was the fruit of his suggestion.

“Don Cláudio”, as he was affectionately called by those who knew Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, passed away this Monday, July 4th. He was 87 years old and had a big heart that beat – and there is no rhetoric in saying this – for the “poor”. The indigenous peoples of the Amazon, such as consecrated missionaries and lay people; the thirsty and hungry of the “South of the world”, such as low-paid workers or the victims of climate change.

He had them in mind all along, even in the last votes of the 2013 Conclave that elected the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio. To his Argentine friend, sitting next to him, when he reached the number of votes needed to be elected, he whispered in his ear: “Don’t forget about the poor.” From the intuition came another intuition of the newly elected Pope for the choice of name. It was Francis himself who revealed to journalists what he found in the Paul VI Room on March 16, 2013:

I had by my side Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, the Archbishop Emeritus of São Paulo and also Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy: a great friend, a great friend! When the case started to get a little “dangerous”, he cheered me up. And when the votes reached two-thirds, there was the usual applause, because the Pope was elected. He hugged me, kissed me and said: “Don’t forget the poor!” And that word stuck in my head: the poor, the poor. Soon after, associating with the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi.

Hummes was happy with that election and the Pope, through the microphones of Vatican Radio, wished “a prolonged pontificate”, because, he said, “the Church needs this pontificate, the Church needs this project that he manifests and that he has set in motion”.

Hummes always prayed for the Church, that she would always be firm and united, not giving in to external and internal threats. “The Church defends her unity as the unity of plurality. Divisions are an evil”, said the cardinal, in front of those who questioned the authority of the Pope.

In this Church that he wanted to be poor and always “on the way”, the Archbishop Emeritus of São Paulo hoped that the voice of the Amazon populations, wounded by deforestation, by predatory projects and diseases of the land and people, as well as the problems pastoral. Another reason for great joy for the cardinal was, in fact, the convening of the Synod for the Pan-Amazon Region in October 2019, an opportunity to focus collective attention on an often overlooked part of the world.

Appointed general rapporteur, in the introductory speech he proposed to the participants of the assembly to focus their work on new paths for the Church in the Amazon: inculturation and interculturality, the issue of the scarcity of priests; the role of deacons and women, care for the Common Home in the spirit of integral ecology. “Indigenous peoples have shown in many ways that they want the Church’s support in defending and protecting their rights, in building their future. And they ask that the Church be a constant ally”, said the cardinal in the new Synod Hall. “Indigenous peoples must be restored and guaranteed the right to be protagonists of their history, subjects and not objects of the spirit and action of anyone’s colonialism”.

Unlike those who looked only at the synod’s immediate results, judged unsatisfactory in relation to the requests of many of the participants, Hummes always looked beyond the Vatican assembly. Not to the Synod, but to the process that the Synod would open in the Amazon and in the world.

In recent times, especially since 2020, the year of his appointment as president of the newly created Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon, he has in fact insisted on the “application” of the Synod’s indications. “The Synod is the high point that illuminates the paths. But it continues now, the whole process will also continue in the post-synodal application, in the territory and in all places where there is a connection”, he always told the Vatican media, through which he also denounced the “serious climate and ecological crisis” that actually puts at risk “the future of the planet and therefore the future of humanity”.

This same urgency was reiterated by the cardinal in a letter of July 2021, in which he asked the world to move from “having to do”, therefore from beautiful promises, to “doing”, that is, to concrete action, so that resolutions of the Synod in the Amazon do not fall into a vacuum, but find practical application in the different communities. “It is right to continue discerning what we must do, but even if that is good, it is not enough,” the cardinal wrote.

Born in Montenegro, Rio Grande do Sul, to a family of German origin, Auri Afonso – this is his baptismal name – assumed the religious name Cláudio when he joined the Order of Friars Minor in 1956. In Rome he studied philosophy and specialized in ecumenism at the Bossey Institute in Geneva; he was professor, rector, theologian, bishop. He spent twenty-one years, starting in 1975, in Santo André, where he stood out for defending workers, supporting unions and participating in strikes as bishop in charge of the Workers’ Pastoral throughout Brazil. In 1996 he was appointed Archbishop of Fortaleza, Ceará. During his two years of ministry he was responsible for family and culture at the Brazilian Episcopal Conference in Brasilia. He was, therefore, one of the architects of the II World Meeting of Families with the Pope, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1997.

On April 15, 1998, John Paul II wanted him as Metropolitan Archbishop of São Paulo, where he gave impetus to vocation ministry, the formation of priests and the evangelization of the city. The role played in the field of mass communication was also important, because the Church – he said – had to speak to the city, bringing Catholics closer and bringing the Gospel to families.

Wojtyla also created him a cardinal on February 21, 2001. He then participated in the April 2005 Conclave that elected Joseph Ratzinger. And Benedict XVI himself named him prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy in 2006, in succession to Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos. In May 2007 he participated in the V Latin American Episcopal Conference, better known as the Aparecida Conference, whose final document was drafted by Cardinal Bergoglio.

In 2010, Hummes resigned as prefect and president of the International Council of Catechesis, a body linked to the Congregation, upon reaching the age limit. On June 29, 2020, he was elected president of the Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon, established as an “effective tool” to implement many of the proposals that emerged from the Synod and to become “a bridge that animates other networks and environmental initiatives at the continental and international level. “. What Dom Cláudio tried to do until the last days of his earthly life.

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