German-born Cardinal Claudio Hummes, Pope Francis' governor in Brazil, died yesterday at the age of 88.
(Brasilia) The Archdiocese of São Paulo announced the death of Cardinal Cláudio Hummes at the age of 87. Cardinal Hummes was Pope Francis' lieutenant in Brazil and one of the major promoters of the Amazon Synod, which, along with the Synod on the Family, was the largest project of the current pontificate to date. Overall, Hummes was one of the most influential voices for the progressive paradigm shift under Francis. The pope called him a "very, very good friend".
Odilo Cardinal Scherer, the incumbent Archbishop of São Paulo yesterday issued a "Message of Sorrow and Hope" announcing that the burial will take place in São Paulo Cathedral:
"It is with great sadness that I announce the death of Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, (...) today, after a long illness that he endured with patience and trust in God."
It was Hummes who, as Francis himself said, said immediately after his election in 2013: "Don't forget the poor". It was he who recommended that the newly elected man call himself Francis. The long history will only be briefly outlined.
Pope Benedict XVI had appointed the Archbishop of São Paulo to the Roman Curia despite his progressive attitude. This was a frequently practiced but not always successful attempt to remove critics of a pontificate from their dioceses and at the same time integrate them in Rome. John Paul II had failed with Cardinal Walter Kasper, Benedict XVI failed with Cardinal Hummes.
Cláudio Hummes, born in 1934 as Auri Alfonso Hummes in Montenegro in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, was of German descent and grew up in an area in southern Brazil dominated by German immigrants. His ancestors emigrated from the Hunsrück to Brazil in 1857. Perhaps that is why it was so easy for him to help forge a progressive German-Brazilian axis.
He studied with the Jesuits, but entered the Franciscan order in 1952, where he received the religious name, Claudio. His intelligence enabled him to continue his studies at the Antonianum, the pontifical college of the Franciscan order in Rome. In 1958 he was ordained a priest and in 1965 he was an adviser to the Brazilian Bishops' Conference on ecumenical questions.
In 1975 he was appointed bishop by Paul VI. and the episcopal consecration by his confrere Archbishop Aloisio Lorscheider OFM, one of the signatories of thecatacomb pact.In the same year, he became bishop of Santo André. At the time, Hummes had been in close contact with the political left for years, particularly with future Brazilian head of state and government Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
At the same time, however, he had the only partially accurate reputation of not being a representative of Marxist liberation theology, which was particularly rampant in Brazil. Therefore, John Paul II appointed him Lorscheider's successor as Archbishop of Fortaleza and in 1998 Archbishop of São Paulo, one of the largest dioceses in the world. He was created a cardinal in 2001.
The integration attempt by Benedict XVI.
Benedict XVI appointed Hummes to the Roman Curia as Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy in 2006, an appointment that caused a scandal even before Hummes arrived in Rome. The newly appointed prefect of clergy spoke out in an interview in Brazil for the abolition of Priestly Celibacy. The scandal was perfect. The Holy See, severely offended, intervened and Hummes backtracked. He corrected his statement and was able to take up his post as Prefect in Rome.
The Brazilian cardinal had revealed two things to the whole world: Hummes was not a Marxist, but a progressive with no reservations about the Marxists. And he knew how to act, if necessary to hide his feelings.
Nevertheless, his time in Rome was not to last long. Externally he kept a low profile but sabotaged the pontificate of Benedict XVI. The final straw came in 2010 with Hummes' boycott of the appointment of St. John Mary Vianney as Patron Saint of Priests.
Behind the scenes, the progressive spectrum was up in arms against Benedict XVI's intention to make the priest of Ars the role model for the next generation of priests. According to the outraged, this is a step backward into “pre-conciliar” times and is directed “against” the Second Vatican Council. Hummes as the responsible cardinal prefect at the Curia played a central role in the rebellion against Benedict XVI. Since this was intriguing and Benedict XVI. was a very lenient regent, Vianney's appointment failed. However, the German Pope showed in his reaction that he could – if only rarely – take decisive steps. He fired the Brazilian that same year and before the end of Hummes' term. Benedict XVI thus shared his poor opinion of Hummes' tenure to the world.
Cardinal Hummes returned to Brazil at the age of 76 and had become Benedict's implacable opponent on a personal level as well. At the beginning of 2014 he would have turned 80 and resigned as a papal elector. The end of his influence. But Benedict XVI. surprisingly announced his resignation in February 2013 and offered the progressive Fronde the unexpected opportunity to turn things around at the "last moment".
Hummes, the Pope Whisperer
Hummes became a key figure in the March 2013 conclave. He was the one who supported the archbishop of Buenos Aires in the pre-conclave and, according to his own statements, supported Jorge Mario Bergoglio in the conclave "when things became a little more dangerous".
The crucial concern of the Sankt Gallen secret group and the Bergoglio team was that their Argentine candidate could withdraw his candidacy, as he did in 2005. Cardinal Kasper had obtained Bergoglio's promise that this would not be the case a second time. But Hummes had the task not to leave Bergoglio's side in the Sistine Chapel. When he showed himself to the world as the new pope, the "pope maker" Hummes also stood next to him on the loggia of St. Peter's Basilica. It was he, as Francis later said several times, who had whispered to him to take the name Francis.
The close bond between Francis and Hummes was still evident in the election year when the new pope gave the Brazilian the satisfaction of vengeance. On September 21, 2013, Francis Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, with whom Benedict XVI. had replaced Hummes as Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy just three years previously.
As late as February 2014, the first anniversary of Benedict XVI's announcement of his resignation, Hummes' joy was evident. The mood among Catholics had been "depressed and sad" during Benedict's reign around the world. People would have “hung their heads”. But with the resignation of the German Pope, so much has changed in one fell swoop “in such a quick and beautiful way”. With the election of Francis, the loss of trust of the people under Benedict XVI. vanished, because "now people have trust again".
In July 2014, in the changing climate of the new pontificate, Hummes gave the Brazilian newspaper Zero Hora a deeper insight into the intellectual world of a “popemaker”, in which “gay marriage”, the abolition of celibacy and women’s priesthood do not pose problems, but play an essential role.
Humme's most important project: the Amazon Synod
This explains why the revolutionary Austrian missionary Bishop Erwin Kräutler found in Hummes the decisive companion for the project "Amazon workshop" with the main goal of eliminating "forced celibacy". It was Hummes who opened the door to Santa Marta and the Amazon Synod. Hummes and Kräutler then also controlled the umbrella organization REPAM, which was founded especially for the synod: Kräutler as chairman for Brazil, Hummes as overall chairman.
It was Hummes who, before the Amazon Synod, alternately announced in cryptic tones that the synod “may become historic” and openly declared that the synod would “decide on married priests” . After all, the Amazon Synod "is not convened to repeat what the Church is already saying, but to move forward," Hummes said in the summer of 2018.
The major goal of the Brazilian purple wearer was the abolition of “forced celibacy”, as he had contemptuously called priestly celibacy back in 2010. Other solutions were out of the question for him. He vigorously rejected such a proposal in the late summer of 2016, when the proposal was made at a conference to solve the problem of the shortage of priests in the Amazon jungle by asking each missionary order to send two priests. Hummes had an allergic reaction: " No, no, the Pope doesn't want that ". He certainly didn't want it.
Everything was prepared by the Amazon Synod to overturn priestly celibacy. Hummes wrote a letter to all in January 2020 announcing Francis' post-synodal exhortation and urging it to be "accepted." It was generally expected that the letter would contain a softening of priestly celibacy. At a secret meeting in June 2019, the leaders of the synod had already found a name for the new ordained ministry: It should be “ Presbyter". Austria's bishops declared three months before the start of the synod – prematurely – that they would “ implement ” the resolutions for the Amazon in Austria. In Austria? It really didn't need more signals to grasp the deeper agenda of the Amazon Synod.
Benedict XVI published in early 2020, together with Cardinal Robert Sarah, then still Prefect of the Congregation for Worship, a plea for the priesthood and priestly celibacy. Outbursts of anger erupted in Santa Marta, but the surprise turnaround on celibacy was perfect. The subject was dropped at the last minute.
Hummes, Francis and Brazil's Socialists
Francis' conspicuous commitment to Lula da Silva also goes back to Hummes. The pope supported the “Free Lula” campaign when the former president was put in prison on suspicion of corruption, sent messages of solidarity to his prison cell, and was outraged by an alleged “white-glove coup d’état” when Lula’s socialists were about to lose their elections in 2018.
After the unexpected defeat on the celibacy issue, things had calmed down around Cardinal Hummes, at least on an international level. In Brazil he worked to the end on the project of a "Church with Amazonian roots". The post-synodal letter Querida Amazonia did not bring about the abolition of celibacy that he and the West hoped for, but it was a Bergoglian instrument that, given the “right” conditions and the necessary backing, offers a lot of leeway – also in the future. In the end, Hummes eagerly supported the establishment of the Conferencia Eclesial de la Amazonia as a parallel church structure. Katholisches.Info wrote on July 10, 2020 about the “ revolution through the back door” :
“The creation of completely new institutions opens the way to shedding the most 'obstructive' considerations possible and to being able to strive for the targeted goals more consistently and directly. (...) The new facility is a seamless continuation of the revolutionary agenda that some saw as shelved, or at least wanted to see. The new institution has been commissioned to submit "an important paper" to the Vatican on the question of how "married men in areas without priests" could be ordained.
Since then it has been established that the objectives have not changed and continue to be: creation of a new Amazonian rite, abolition of celibacy, admission of married men to the priesthood, admission of women to the sacrament of Holy Orders as deaconesses – for the time being – and other progressive burdens of the past.”
Cardinal Hummes became chairman of the new parallel structure.
Hummes supported the unprecedented attack by 152 Brazilian bishops on President Jair Bolsonaro in the summer of 2020. The "Church with an Amazonian face" is too important to Santa Marta for such a frontal attack against a friendly, democratically elected legitimate government by parts of the episcopate to be launched single-handedly. Cardinal Hummes, Francis' personal friend, vouched for this.
May God have mercy on his soul.
Text: Giuseppe Nardi Image : MiL/arquisp.org.br/VaticanNews/Youtube/Wikicommons (Screenshots)