The reform of the Catholic Church is the greatest and most comprehensive goal of Pope Francis’s pontificate, says Brazilian Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, in a short book published in Brazil last Friday, January 20th.
Entitled “Major Goals of Pope Francis” (“Grandes metas do Papa Francisco,” in Portuguese) the prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy and archbishop emeritus of São Paulo summarizes what he considers to be the priorities of the first Latin American pontiff.
Recalling the traditional saying “Ecclesia semper reformanda” (“The Church must always be reformed”), Hummes affirms that the apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium is the true programmatic document of Pope Francis.
“The Church incarnates in human history, walks with her,” writes the cardinal. According to him, the core of Pope Francis’s ecclesiastical reform is to build “a totally missionary Church.”
Among the main goals pointed out by the archbishop are to make the church “move and leave” preferentially towards the peripheries.
“You should not stand still in time or space, nor want to walk backward, but forward. The Church must forget herself and put herself at the service of the world. For this Jesus founded her,” he states.
On Amoris Laetitia, Hummes does not enter into the debate about hot-button issues, but shows support for Bergoglio: “Pope Francis demonstrated how much he values the family and fights for it,” writes the cardinal.
“The matrimonial state continues to be the symbol of the love that God has towards his people or that Jesus Christ has for his Church,” he adds, summarizing that “the great pastoral orientation that Pope Francis traces in this document is mercy, and not so much the law. No law helps to save if it does not help us to practice love and mercy.”
Furthermore, the Brazilian prelate affirms about families who live in difficult situations: “It is necessary to turn lights on in their path and give them hope, solidarity and accompaniment, so that they can rise and get rid of their evils progressively.”
Among the pope’s other major goals, in Cardinal Hummes’s view, are: “crying for the dead that no one cries for,” such as those of the migratory tragedies; building a “poor Church for the poor,” also demonstrated in the three Ts, tierra, techo y trabajo (“land, ceiling and work”), and the proposal to take the Church to the peripheries.
Hummes also cites “warming up people’s hearts” in pastoral activity; fighting against the exclusion of elderly and youth; “To save our planet,” an idea strongly defended in the encyclical Laudato si‘; promoting peace; the idea that “the Church grows by attraction,” already presented by Benedict XVI; and spreading an “ardent Marian devotion.”
The book would be just one of many publications on Pope Francis, were it not written by 82-year-old Hummes. It gains relevance for two reasons.
First, he is a cardinal, and a Latin American one, like Bergoglio. Also, Hummes is a bishop who does not usually publish books very often. Writing this essay was a personal choice of his to honor the pontiff “albeit modestly” for his 80th birthday–as the cardinal himself explained in the book’s introduction.
Second, the essay comes from one of the closest cardinals to the successor of Peter. Hummes and Bergoglio have known each other since the time they were bishops of two big Latin American metropolises: São Paulo and Buenos Aires.
After his election, Bergoglio acknowledged that he had chosen the name “Francis” because Hummes, a Franciscan, warned him: “Do not forget the poor!” Hummes was on Francis’s left side in his first appearance on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Since 2011, Hummes has been the president of the Brazilian Episcopal Conference’s Commission for the Amazon. Specifically about the Church present in that place, he asserts the Pope loves the Amazon and supports the idea that it is necessary to develop an autochthonous (native-born) clergy.
In addition to that, he says, “as long as it is not concretely accepted that the indigenous peoples have to become again the subjects and protagonists of their history, the debt with them will not be paid.”
Filipe Domingues, is a Rome-based journalist who writes for the Brazilian newspaper O Säo Paulo.