A Brazilian pope – maybe
Newsmagazine Época speculates this week if any Brazilian cardinal has a chance to become the next pope. Several Vaticanists interviewed for the story bet the successor of Benedict XVI will be a non-European, breaking a tradition kept since the first days of the Church. Many experts see a real possibility that he will come from a developing country, among other reasons because Pan-American and African Catholics’ power grew consistently since the 70s. They also say the Vatican seeems to be looking for a leader tuned with other continents and able of uniting Catholics of different cultures.
Brazilian clergy is particularly well positioned in this dispute because Brazil has the biggest Catholic population in the world – 150 million people, although a huge percentage doesn’t practice it consistently, visiting churches only sporadically, to attend christenings and weddings. Also, many Brazilian Catholics are attracted to religions with African origin, such as umbanda and candomblé, leading a somewhat double religious life. A previous post, Religion Mix at the Sororoty of Good Death, illustrates well this phenomenon.
According to Época, there are five Brazilian potential candidates, all reasonably well positioned (all known by the honorific title Dom) :
- the cardinal-archbishop of the city of São Paulo, Dom Odilo Scherer, is the youngest, at 63. Basically a conservative, he wouldn’t be prone to change the Church’s stance on the use of condoms, abortion and gay marriages. He is engaged in national politics – last year he ordered all the priests under his command to read a text against then mayoral candidate Celso Russomano, who is connected with Christians of Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus.
- The archbishop of Brasília, the country’s capital, Dom João Braz de Avis was, in the 70s, closer to a liberal movement particularly strong in Brazil, the Liberation Theology, led by then former fray Leonardo Boff. Later in life he kept his distance from this movement and its intense socialist bend, and approached the Foccolari, laymen very dedicated to the Church. But he doesn’t speak English, which might be a really serious caveat.
- Dom Claudio Hummes, a moderate, is a former archbishop of São Paulo and has a good relationship with all the Church’s spectrum, from Opus Day to the Liberation Theology. He also supported former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva during his struggles as a trade union leader in the 70s. He held several distinguished posts in the Vatican, but, at 78, might be considered too old for papacy.
- Dom Geraldo Majella Agnello, also among the oldest Brazilian candidates, at 79, was key in the construction of Pastoral da Criança, the Brazilian Church initiative to improve children’s quality of life. He is considered very formal and a conservative.
- Finally, Dom Raymundo Damasceno Assis, at 77, is the president of the powerful CNBB, the congregation of Brazilian bishops and the archbishop of Aparecida do Norte, the main Catholic pilgrimage center in Brazil, dedicated to Nossa Senhora de Aparecida, the national saint patron.
What is your opinion? Do you think there are real chances for a Brazilian pope in the near future?
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