Liberation theologian named to key Vatican post

Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, a friend of newly re-elected Brazilian president Lula and a long-time supporter of the liberation theology movement, has been named as the new prefect of the Holy See Congregation for the Clergy.

The 72-year-old Brazil-born son of German immigrants will succeed Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, according to an overnight announcement from the Holy See, Catholic News Service reports.

Cardinal Hummes, a Franciscan who speaks five languages, is known as a champion of human dignity, not only supporting and initiating concrete projects to help the poor, but also defending the traditional family, fighting abortion and citing the need for solid ethical norms in response to advances in biomedical technology.

The cardinal earned a reputation as a peacemaker after mediating a bitter labour dispute in Brazil, but also by the way he welcomed new Catholic movements into the church without pushing aside older groups, and through his work to promote Christian unity and better relations with the Jews.

National Catholic Reporter Vatican analyst, John L Allen, describes Hummes as "a man long identified as one of liberation theology's friends in the Latin American hierarchy" and a "close personal friend" of Brazil's leftist president, Lula da Silva.

"The irony would not be lost on the Latin American church," Mr Allen says, "where then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, while still Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was known as the author of a 1984 Vatican document highly critical of liberation theology - judged to be excessively politicised, and to shade off at times into Marxist-inspired terrorism."

Cardinal Hummes is a member of the Vatican congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith, Divine Worship and the Sacraments and for Bishops. He was invited by John Paul II in 2002 to preach his annual Lenten retreats.

Shortly before Pope John Paul died in April 2005, Cardinal Hummes was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Vatican's commemoration of Vatican Council II document Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.

The key text explains the church's commitment to justice and to bringing Gospel values to bear on economic, social and political life.

The Cardinal told the conference that while the Church is called to promote unity, progress and dialogue, "a servant church must have as its priority solidarity with the poor."

In addition, he said, in order to serve the world and show it the path to salvation, the Church must be in dialogue with the world, with politicians and economists, with members of other religions and with scientists.

"However, this always must be a dialogue and not the imposition of the church's convictions and methods," he said. The church must "propose and not impose, serve and not dominate."

In the blue-collar diocese, where Volkswagen and Ford had their largest Latin American plants, Cardinal Hummes gained pastoral experience among labourers and on several occasions played the role of mediator between the companies and their unions.

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 in 1998 Pope John Paul transferred him to Sao Paulo, a diocese with more than 5 million Catholics.

Pope John Paul named him to the College of Cardinals in 2001.

Pope to name liberation theology ally to key Vatican post, report says (NCRcafe, 31/10/06)
Pope names Brazilian cardinal as new prefect of clergy congregation (CNS 31/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Holy See Congregation for the Clergy
Congregation for the Clergy
Cardinal Claudio Hummes (Catholic-Hierarchy)
Champion of Workers and the Poor (Washington Post, 3/4/05)
Archbishop of Sao Paulo (Catholic Hierarchy)
Archdiocese of Sao Paulo

Brazilian papal candidate outlines social justice vision (CathNews 21/3/05)

1 Nov 2006