Pope Names Brazilian Cardinal to Top Vatican Post
November 1, 2006
Vatican City — Pope Benedict yesterday named Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, a champion of human rights and social justice, to head the powerful Vatican department that oversees Catholic priests around the world.
Hummes, until now archbishop of Sao Paolo, had himself been considered a leading candidate for the papacy in the conclave that elected Benedict in April, 2005, as successor to the late Pope John Paul.
His appointment as head of the Congregation for the Clergy, which oversees matters regarding the world's 400,000 Catholic priests as well as some aspects of religious education, underscores the importance of the world's largest Catholic country for the Vatican.
He will now become the leading Brazilian in the Vatican and among his duties will be handling some aspects of the priestly sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church around the world.
The promotion of Hummes, 72, to the ranks of the Vatican's movers and shakers increases his chances of becoming pope if another conclave is held before he turns 80, the age at which cardinals can no longer enter conclaves.
He is a friend of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a former union leader whom Hummes helped during the 1964-1985 military dictatorship.
Ironically, Hummes supported so-called Liberation Theology in Latin American in the early 1980s, when the current Pope — then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — wrote a controversial major document clamping down on political involvement by priests.
Hummes, who helped leftist unions in their political struggle against the military dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s, has since moderated his stance.
"I see a symbolic perspective of Hummes influencing the roots of the Church. This is a recognition for Brazil, where one in every 10 Catholics lives and where the Church is closely linked to the poor class," said Dr. Fernando Altemeyer, a theologian at Sao Paulo Pontifical Catholic University.
Hummes is an advocate of Brazil's radical leftist Landless Movement for land reform and defends the rights of the homeless and slum dwellers.
The son of German immigrants, he is a member of the Franciscan order and as archbishop of Sao Paolo, he headed Brazil's largest archdiocese.
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