YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Lucas Moreira Neves, 76; Brazilian Cardinal Mentioned as Possible Pope


Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves, a former top Vatican official who once was mentioned as a possible successor to Pope John Paul II, has died. He was 76.

Neves, who stepped down as prefect of the influential Congregation of Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America two years ago because of failing health, died Sunday while receiving treatment in a Rome clinic, according to Vatican officials.

A Brazilian, Neves served as archbishop of Sao Salvador da Bahia for 10 years until called to the Vatican in 1998. The erudite Neves emerged a decade ago as a commanding voice in Brazil, the world's largest Catholic country.

A conservative, he was considered to be resolutely on the Vatican's side on contemporary issues facing the church, such as contraception, abortion and the ordination of women.

He was particularly outspoken on two issues, television and Candomble, the Afro-Brazilian religion that blends Catholicism with West African beliefs.

He alienated many of Bahia's residents--more than 90% are black--with his hard line against Afro-Brazilian religious practices in church rites. The religions, he believed, should be clearly separated.

In 1993, Neves surprised the television industry by accusing broadcasters of "appealing to the most base instincts" and creating a generation of voyeurs.

Born in 1925 in Sao Joao del Rei, Neves was the first of 10 children. He entered the Dominican order and was ordained a priest in 1950.

Neves, who traveled to more than 70 countries, spoke six languages fluently--Portuguese, English, Spanish, French, Italian and Latin.

In the mid-1990s, when Neves was on a short list of possible successors to Pope John Paul II, church observers said his chances were enhanced by his not being averse to tackling the issues of the day. Neves had close ties to John Paul II, dating to when the pope was archbishop of Krakow, Poland. John Paul promoted Neves to archbishop in 1979 and to cardinal in 1988. In 1991, Neves hosted the pope during his second visit to Brazil.

Los Angeles Times Articles