Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Benedict's Brazilian Host

On his arrival in São Paulo tomorrow night, Pope Benedict will be welcomed by the city's new archbishop, Odilio Pedro Scherer, who took the reins of Latin America's second largest local church on 29 April.

Scherer, 57, who served as secretary-general of the Brazilian bishops' conference until his appointment as archbishop in March, was tapped by Benedict to succeed Cardinal Claudio Hummes OFM, who the Pope called to Rome last year to serve as Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy. At his installation in the city's eponymous mother church -- known in Portugese simply as the "Cathedral of the See" -- Scherer sounded notes of "fé, alegria e esperança": "faith, joy and hope."

In his homily before the congregation of several thousand, the new archbishop -- the first secular cleric to hold the Sao Pãulo post in almost four decades -- exhorted the flock to live as "eloquent pages of the Gospel: easily understandable both in the church's community and for all of society.

"Share it with everyone, radiate for them the joy of faith and the life of the church through the testimony of a holy life."

Both as the outgoing general secretary for the Brazilian conference and Sao Pãulo's incoming ordinary, Scherer has been at the nexus of the preparations for Benedict's five-day visit, both in arranging the logistics and as the event's public face on the ground. Focusing on the continuing influence of liberation theology in the Brazilian church in its look-forward to the visit, today's New York Times reported that, in a recent press conference, Scherer "tried to conciliate the two opposing viewpoints.

"While he criticized liberation theology for using 'Marxism as a tool of analysis,'" the paper said, "he also praised liberation theologians for redirecting the church’s mission here to focus on issues of social injustice and poverty."

Given his new post's size and prominence -- the archdiocese is home to in excess of 7 million Catholics -- a red hat is expected to be quickly in the offing for Scherer; both Hummes and his predecessor, Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns OFM were respectively elevated to the sacred college at the first consistory following their appointments there.

O São Paulo