In 2007, when Dom Odilo Scherer (an Auxiliary Bishop at the time) was appointed Archbishop of São Paulo and six months later created a Cardinal by Benedict XVI, the meteoric rise did not come as a surprise in Brazil.
Following his work as General Secretary of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB) from 2003 to 2007 – be it due to his polished training, his calm demeanor, or his firm authoritativeness when needed – people already saw in him a man prepared to take up São Paulo, one of the largest and most important archdioceses in the world, with more than 6 million Catholics.
If elected Pope, again, it would be no surprise for the faithful of São Paulo: they know that their Archbishop is a man prepared to be the successor to the Chair of St. Peter.
At 63, considered young and strong enough to deal with the huge demands of the next pontificate, Odilo Scherer is pointed out as the strongest Latin American candidate to succeed Benedict XVI.
The seventh of 13 brothers with parents of German origin, he was born in 1949 in Cerro Largo, Brazil. He grew up in Toledo (Paraná), studying and working in the fields. His family's strong Catholic tradition favored the awakening of his vocation from early on.
After doing basic training in philosophy and theology at Curitiba and being ordained a priest thereafter, Scherer performed his pastoral work mainly as a seminary rector and professor. He obtained his Master's Degree and Doctorate at the Gregorian University in Rome.
He lived in France and Germany, learned English in Ireland, and built up his Spanish and Italian, as well as the languages most commonly used by ecclesiastical scholars: Latin, Greek and Hebrew. It is common to see him listen to different editions of Vatican Radio with the same ease, be it in Portuguese, English, French, Italian, Spanish or German.
Dom Odilo Scherer also has a long history serving in important roles in the Church. He was General Secretary of the CNBB when, weeks before the visit of Benedict XVI to Brazil in May 2007, he received the appointment as Archbishop, becoming the Pope's host. Already in the 90s, he had worked for over seven years as an officer of the Congregation for Bishops in the Vatican.
Those who live close to Scherer highlight his profile as a hard worker, efficient and determined, but open to dialogue. He is always firm when it comes to defending the Church’s beliefs, the laity's presence in politics and the importance of the Church’s voice in public debate.
In the Roman Curia, he is a member of the Congregation for the Clergy, the Pontifical Councils for the Family and the Promotion of the New Evangelization, the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Council of Cardinals for the Study of Organizational and Economic Problems of the Holy See.
He also forms part of the Pontifical Commission of Cardinals for the supervision of the Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican Bank, a function that shows that he is a man trusted by Benedict XVI.
If the Cardinals decide to formulate a name outside of Europe, Dom Odilo certainly emerges as one of the strongest candidates. The question remains of whether the time has come for the Church to have a Latin American Pope – a man who would be a significant representative of the developing world in which the Catholic faith, in spite of challenges, still shines in its fervor, devotions and fraternal spirit.