Portuguese cardinal could be a bridge candidate in conclave

By Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A longtime theologian and author, Portuguese Cardinal Jose da Cruz Policarpo of Lisbon is seen as an outside candidate for pope -- a possible bridge candidate between Europe and Latin America, where Portuguese and Spanish are the two main languages.

Cardinal Jose da Cruz Policarpo of Lisbon, Portugal, is regarded as an influential elector in the conclave to elect a new pope. (CNS photo from Catholic Press Photo)

For most of his priesthood the 69-year-old cardinal has been associated with seminary formation and with the Portuguese Catholic University, where he taught and later was rector.

Even after becoming patriarch of Lisbon in 1998, his close ties with the university continued because the office automatically makes him grand chancellor of the university.

He is one of only three Latin-rite bishops in Europe with the title of patriarch and the only one outside Italy. The other two are the patriarch of Venice and, when a new one is elected, the pope -- whose titles include "patriarch of the West."

Cardinal Policarpo has written several books, including "St. Bernard and Marian Theology" and "An Ethical Order for Peace," and is the author of numerous articles in theological journals. His writings cover a range of issues from Marian spirituality -- reflecting the Portuguese devotion to Our Lady of Fatima -- to the moral and spiritual challenges of modern society and the role of the church in civil society and culture.

His interest in contemporary questions of faith was evident even in the late 1960s when, as a young priest doing graduate studies at Rome's Gregorian University, he defended a thesis on the theology of non-Christian religions and a subordinate paper on "The Signs of the Times."

As head of the Portuguese bishops' conference since 1999, he has been outspoken in the defense of democracy and respect for human rights in the former Portuguese colonies of East Timor and Mozambique.

Born Feb. 26, 1936, in Alvorninha, Portugal, Jose da Cruz Policarpo has been a priest since 1961 and a bishop since 1978. He became patriarch of Lisbon in 1998 and a cardinal in 2001.

He studied for the priesthood at the minor seminaries of Santarem and Almada and completed his theological studies at Christ the King Seminary in Olivais.

Following ordination he was sent to Rome for further studies at Gregorian University, where he earned his licentiate in dogmatic theology in 1968.

From 1963 to 1968 he also taught and served as vice rector at the minor seminary in Penafirme, Portugal.

In 1970 he began teaching at the Portuguese Catholic University and simultaneously serving as rector of the Olivais seminary.

He was made an auxiliary bishop of Lisbon in 1978, during his first term as director of the university's theology faculty, 1974-80. He served a second term as head of the theology faculty, from 1985 until 1988, when he was made rector of the university, a post he held for the next eight years.

From 1985 to 1987 he headed a commission that oversaw the establishment of a new regional branch of the university in Porto.

In March 1997 he was named coadjutor archbishop of the Lisbon Patriarchate with the right of succession. He became patriarch almost exactly a year later and was installed in the College of Cardinals in February 2001.

Cardinal Policarpo is a member of the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education, the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for Culture.

In mid-April 2005 he concludes a second three-year term as president of the Portuguese bishops' conference. He has served on the conference's permanent council and on its commissions for doctrine, the apostolate of the laity, Christian education and the cultural goods of the church.

He has also served as the Portuguese bishops' representative on the Council of European Bishops' Conferences and the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community.

In September 2000 Cardinal Policarpo hosted an annual interreligious gathering for peace sponsored by the Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio.

During the meeting, the cardinal issued a brief but direct apology to the region's Jewish community, which over the centuries had suffered exile, attempts at forced conversion and disrespect at the hands of Catholics.

"This historical center of Lisbon, where today we embrace in friendship, has in the past been the stage for intolerable acts of violence against the Jewish people," he said.

"The Catholic Church recognizes that her memory is deeply stained by these words and deeds, so often carried out in her name, which are unworthy of human dignity and of the Gospel she proclaims," he added.

During the conference, Cardinal Policarpo told the participants from dozens of religious traditions: "Every true religious faith can contribute to peace. There does not exist a true God and other false gods. Those which are false do not exist, and there is only one true God in whom we all believe, whose face we all search for that light which radiates harmony and peace."

Religious faith brings with it a broad vision of life and of history; it aims to foster a relationship between God and individuals, and it recognizes that God, the source of all life, continues to act in the world, he said.

At the most recent world Synod of Bishops, held in Rome in 2001 on the role of bishops in the church, Cardinal Policarpo spoke about the necessity and nature of dialogue in the church.

He said today's Catholics expect an openness to dialogue among the bishops, but the church cannot follow "a merely cultural and sociological notion of dialogue. The concessions and tolerance marking dialogue for social harmony cannot be transferred wholesale to the church, which preaches the truth about human life and eternal salvation, he said.

He said that for the church dialogue starts with faith in Jesus and the Gospel. It listens to others after listening to the word of God, he said, and it responds to questions and challenges by living the faith more deeply and completely.

Earlier this year Cardinal Policarpo preached the homily at the funeral Mass for Carmelite Sister Lucia dos Santos, the last of the three Portuguese children who saw visions of Mary at Fatima in 1917. In the decades since then, Fatima has become the site of one of the world's most famous Marian shrines and pilgrimage destinations.

The cardinal said Sister Lucia's "extraordinary" gift as recipient of apparitions of Mary would have no meaning if she had not listened to and lived Mary's call to conversion and Christian discipleship.

"God calls us and trusts us to fulfill our mission. ... Lucia was always faithful to her mission to spread the message of Fatima, which challenges people to penance, conversion and contemplation," he said.


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