The entire Laudato Si’ Movement family mourns the death of Cardinal Claudio Hummes, who dedicated his life to serving the poor, Indigenous Peoples, and advocating for our common home. Cardinal Hummes died on Monday at the age of 87.
He notably inspired Pope Francis to name himself after St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology and beloved for his work in caring for God’s creation and the poor.
When the new Pope was elected on March 13, 2013, Cardinal Hummes, who was sitting next to him in the Sistine Chapel, whispered to the Pope, “Don’t forget the poor!” The Pope has said that at that moment, he immediately remembered St. Francis of Assisi and “the name Francis came into my heart.”
Decades before that encounter, Cardinal Hummes, a Franciscan, had emulated the service of St. Francis of Assisi, caring for the poor and for our common home. Cardinal Hummes was especially active at the international level in recent years as the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis have worsened across the globe.
In 2015, the same year Pope Francis wrote Laudato Si’, Cardinal Hummes delivered 840,000 Catholic Climate Petition signatures to political authorities of the United Nations and the French government ahead of the 21st UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris.
“Families, youth groups, parish communities, lay movements, religious congregations, and Cardinals and Bishops like myself, have mobilized to ask for intergenerational and intragenerational solidarity,” he said, kindly serving as the Laudato Si’ Movement spokesperson at the interfaith event. “I pray for political leaders to ‘hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor; (LS 49) and to respond to the climate justice demand from faith communities.”
The next day, Cardinal Hummes humbly helped Pope Francis participate in the Global Climate March in Paris. The march was cancelled by the French government because of recent terrorist attacks, but Cardinal Hummes brought and laid Pope Francis’s shoes at the Place de la République in Paris.
Shoes were on display there to represent the 300,000 Parisians who were supposed to begin the Paris Climate March from that location. Pope Francis’s shoes were placed alongside those of Cardinal Hummes and Cardinal Peter Turkson.
Cardinal Hummes also fervently advocated for the Amazon and Indigenous Peoples. He was instrumental in the creation of the Synod of the Pan-Amazonian Region in October 2019. The synod explored how the Church can better serve the region and its people while sharing the Good News. Following the synod, Pope Francis wrote the post-synodal apostolic exhortation, “Querida Amazonia.”
“Indigenous peoples have shown in many ways that they want the Church’s support in defending and protecting their rights, in building their future. And they ask the Church to be a constant ally,” Cardinal Hummes said during the synod. “Indigenous peoples must be restored and guaranteed the right to be protagonists of their history, subjects and not objects of the spirit and action of anyone’s colonialism.”
Among his many roles in the Church, Cardinal Hummes previously served as Archbishop of São Paulo and as Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy.
Laudato Si’ Movement especially holds in its prayers our dear sisters and brothers of REPAM in the Amazon, with whom Cardinal Hummes worked closely for years.
Dear Heavenly Father, we come to You mourning the death and celebrating the life of Cardinal Hummes. He was a true servant of Your work, spending his lifetime trying to create the Kingdom of God on Earth and advocating for all of Your creation. We pray for the repose of his soul, and we ask you to help all of us continue his exemplary service of caring for creation and the most vulnerable among us.