When he was appointed archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, Orani Tempesta – newly made a cardinal -- promised to visit each parish of the populous local Church, and he has been making good on this promise.
The cardinal archbishop has been making progress in visiting the 252 parishes of his archdiocese since he was appointed to Rio de Janeiro in 2009.
The Brazilian newspaper “Folha” writes that Cardinal Tempesta’s profile is similar to that of Pope Francis, and that their visions for the Church mirror each other.
Cardinal Tempesta was born in 1950, and entered the Cistercian monastery of Sao Bernardo in 1967. He was solemnly professed as a member of the Cistercian order in 1969, studied philosophy at Sao Bernardo, and theology at the Pius IX theological institute in Sao Paulo.
He was ordained a priest in 1974, and in 1984 became prior of his monastery. He also served as a parish priest and communications director for the St. John of Boa Vista diocese, and taught at the diocese’s Immaculate Heart of Mary seminary.
When Sao Bernardo priory was elevated to an abbey in 1996, Cardinal Tempesta was elected as its first abbot.
Cardinal Tempesta was consecrated bishop of the Rio Preto diocese in 1997; he also served as apostolic administrator of the Cistercian’s Territorial Abbey of Claraval from 1999 until it was merged into the Guaxupe diocese in 2002.
He was then transferred in 2004 to the Archdiocese of Belem do Para, a port city at the mouth of the Para River, part of the Amazon river system. While archbishop of Belem, he advocated on the Church’s behalf in the region’s environmental conflicts and attended the 2007 meeting of Latin American bishops at Aparecida.
In 2009, Cardinal Tempesta was appointed Archbishop of St. Sebastian of Rio de Janeiro, a see which has come with a cardinal’s hat since Archbishop Arcoverde de Albuquerque Cavalcanti was given the red biretta in 1905.
He is known for building consensus: “he seeks to demonstrate … that everyone has to recognize the complementarity of opinions,” Dom Paulo Demartini, abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Sao Jose of Rio Pardo told Rio de Janeiro’s Globo.
Cardinal Tempesta, 63, is known in Brazil as the “worker bishop,” since he has spent much of his time in the episcopate advocating for the poor, showing his proximity to this flock, and addressing issues of poverty.
On arriving in Rio de Janeiro, he promised to visit each of his parishes, and began immediately. No head of the archdiocese has yet been able to visit all his flock. Currently, there are some 3.7 million Catholics in the 252 parishes of Rio de Janeiro.
While remaining a Cistercian who often quotes St. Bernard of Clairvaux in his homilies, Cardinal Tempesta is also devoted to new and social media as means of spreading the Gospel.
He is known for his championing of pro-life issues, having debated with the Brazilian health minister in 2007 about abortion, and he has called on all Christians to live out their vocation as “missionary disciples.”
Cardinal Tempesta hosted the 2013 World Youth Day, where he urged pilgrims to spread the joy and peace of Christ to all peoples.
Cardinal Tempesta is one of 19 men who were added to the college of cardinals in the Feb. 22 consistory. Of the new cardinals, he is the only Brazilian, and one of four from Latin America.