He is at the head of the largest diocese in the world’s most Catholic country, and to many observers that makes him a favourite to become Pope.
Cardinal Claudio Hummes is the shepherd of a nine million strong flock in the sprawling Brazilian city of Sao Paulo. It is a hugely diverse community, ranging from the super rich to the down and out: “Loving the poor, having solidarity with the poor, helping the poor, that-s the challenge of the Church and all good men, especially as wealth becomes more and more concentrated.” Born in August 1934 in Montenegro in the far south of Brazil, he became bishop of Santo Andre in 1975, and made his name as a mediator between workers and bosses at the city’s two massive Volkswagen and Ford plants. Named a cardinal by the Pope in 2001, he is a conservative on family issues such as contraception who also seeks to promote social justice. He’s attacked what he calls “neo-liberal” economics for provoking unemployment, and has demanded the Brazilian government do more to help the jobless. Hummes is no radical, but his calls for dialogue between religions, and work to promote the rights of the poor working class, could make him a worthy successor to John Paul II.