Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes


Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, a former Vatican official, a longtime champion of the poor, a prime mover behind the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon and a “good friend” of Pope Francis, died July 4. He was 87.

Pope Francis told reporters in 2013 that Cardinal Hummes helped inspire him to take the name of St. Francis of Assisi when he was elected pope.

During the March 2013 conclave, he said, “I was seated next to the archbishop emeritus of São Paulo and prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes: a good friend, a good friend!”

“When things were looking dangerous, he encouraged me. And when the votes reached two-thirds, there was the usual applause, because the pope had been elected,” Pope Francis continued. “And he gave me a hug and a kiss and said: ‘Don’t forget the poor!’”

“Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi,” he told reporters three days after his election.

In a message of condolence to the Archdiocese of São Paulo, Pope Francis mentioned it again.

The pope expressed gratitude to God for Cardinal Hummes’ “long years of dedicated and zealous service—always guided by Gospel values—to holy mother Church in the various pastoral responsibilities entrusted to him in Brazil and in the Roman Curia, and for his commitment in recent years to the Church in the Amazon.”

Pope Francis chose Cardinal Hummes, who was then the founding president of the Pan-Amazonian Church Network, REPAM, to be relator general of the synod on the Amazon in 2019.

During the synod, the cardinal presided at an early morning Mass in the Catacombs of Domitilla where he and several dozen synod participants signed the “Pact of the Catacombs for the Common Home.”

Invoking the martyred Christians buried in the catacombs and the martyrs of the Amazon, the signers of the new document promised to defend the Amazon rainforest, to promote an “integral ecology” of care for people and for the earth and, “before the avalanche of consumerism,” to live “a happily sober lifestyle, simple and in solidarity with those who have little or nothing.”

The day before the cardinal’s Funeral Mass July 6, hundreds of mourners paid their last respects, including former president and current presidential candidate, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva.

Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro, Vatican nuncio to Brazil, presided at the cardinal’s Funeral Mass, with dozens of bishops among the concelebrants. The cardinal was buried in the crypt of the São Paulo cathedral.

A child of German immigrants, he was born in Montenegro, Brazil and was ordained a Franciscan priest in 1958. After serving as superior of the Franciscan province of Rio Grande do Sul and president of the Latin American Franciscan Council, he was appointed coadjutor bishop of Santo Andre in March 1975 and became head of the diocese that December.

In the late 1970s, he opened the doors of churches as a refuge for those hunted by the military regime.

In 1996, he was appointed archbishop of Fortaleza and strengthened his fame as a peacemaker.

He was appointed archbishop of São Paulo in April 1998. Pope John Paul named him to the College of Cardinals in 2001.

Pope Benedict named him prefect of the then-Congregation for Clergy in late 2006 and he retired in 2010. —CNS

Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes