Following a long illness, Brazilian Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, o.f.m ., Prefect emeritus of the Dicastery for the Clergy, passed away on Monday, 4 July, in his home in São Paulo, at the age of 87. Having heard the news, the Holy Father sent a telegram of condolences to Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, Metropolitan Archbishop of São Paulo. The following is a translation of Pope Francis’ telegram which was written in Portuguese, accompanied by a brief biography of the late Cardinal.
Having received with deep sorrow the news of the death of H.E. Cardinal Cláudio Hummes ofm , your predecessor in the pastoral leadership of the beloved Archdiocese of São Paulo, I wish to assure you of the prayers of suffrage I raise to the Almighty for the eternal rest of this dear brother. My prayers are also of gratitude to God for the many years of his dedicated and zealous service, always guided by the values of the Gospel, to the Holy Mother Church in the various pastoral assignments that were entrusted to him both in Brazil and in the Roman Curia, and to his commitment in recent years to the Church that journeys in Amazonia. Vivid in my memory are the words Dom Cláudio said to me on 13 May 2013, when he asked me not to forget the poor. As a pledge of consolation and hope in eternal life, I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, Eminence, and to all those who join in prayer for the funeral service of Cardinal Hummes.
Cardinal Cláudio Hummes was born on 8 August 1934 in Montenegro, in the State of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, to a family of German immigrants. He entered the seminary of the Order of Friars Minor on 1 February 1952, professing his solemn vows on 2 February 1956. After studying philosophy and theology, he was ordained a priest on 3 August 1958.
He continued his studies in Rome, where he earned a degree in philosophy in 1963, before returning to Brazil to serve as Professor of Philosophy in the Franciscan seminary of Garibaldi and cooperating in the parish’s pastoral life. Between 1965 and 1968, he served as advisor of ecumenism of the Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB), who later sent him to Switzerland to further his studies in ecumenical subjects at the Institute of Bossey.
From 1969 to 1972 he served as professor and rector at the Faculty of Philosophy of Vilmão. In that same period, he was also a professor at the Pontifical University of Porto Alegre and an educator of young Franciscan clerics. Between 1972 and 1975, he served as his order’s Provincial Superior in Rio Grande do Sul.
One of Cardinal Hummes’ main priorities was the formation of priests. Upon his return from Rome, he began his service in formation in the post-Council climate and amid the crises of some seminaries. He was attentive without neglecting the practical aspects of the mission, among these, the construction of buildings suitable to the formation process. He believed that young people should have access to someone they could trust, to talk about their vocation and receive guidance.
Appointed titular Bishop of Carcabia and Coadjutor of Santo André on 22 March 1975, he was ordained a bishop on 25 May 1975 in the Cathedral of Porto Alegre. On 29 December of the same year, he succeeded as Bishop of Santo André, a diocese where he faced unrest caused by tension between steel-metal workers’ unions and the military regime at the end of the 1970s. When the government shut down union offices, Hummes allowed the unionists to meet inside churches. He acted as mediator between the police and demonstrators to avoid violence, explaining that his actions were based on the Gospel and that his aim was evangelization. The experience of being involved with the workers made him more aware of the realities of the poor and their suffering, which, he said, greatly helped him in his later assignments.
After leading the Diocese of Santo André for 21 years, the Cardinal was appointed Metropolitan Archbishop of Fortaleza, where he once again witnessed extreme poverty, this time that of farmers. He also helped organise the Second World Meeting of Families in Rio De Janeiro in 1997. The following year he was appointed Metropolitan Archbishop of São Paulo, where he dedicated himself to vocational pastoral work, formation of priests and evangelization.
He served as member of the Pontifical Councils for Interreligious Dialogue, for the family, for culture, the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the then Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
He was created a Cardinal during the consistory of 21 February 2001. In 2004, he was appointed member of the College of Cardinals for the study of organizational and economical problems of the Holy See. He participated in the Conclave of 19 April 2005 that elected Benedict XVI.