Election of new pope
Profile of Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, Archbishop of Sao Paulo
Scherer is Brazil's best hope to be the next pope. At the relatively young age of 63, he embraces all new means of reaching believers.
Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, Archbishop of Sao Paulo. Photo: EFE
Cardinal Odilo Scherer is known for voracious tweeting, appearing on Brazil's most popular late-night talk show and squeezing into the subway for morning commutes, just like most of the five (m) million faithful in his diocese, one of the globe's largest.
Scherer is Brazil's best hope to be the next pope. At the relatively young age of 63, he embraces all new means of reaching believers, but the nature of his message and his bearing remain true to a pragmatically conservative line of Roman Catholic doctrine.
After joining Twitter in 2011, Scherer first sent out a greeting to the faithful followed by a second tweet stating: "If Jesus preached the gospel today, he would also use print media, radio, TV, the Internet and Twitter. Give Him a chance!"
Scherer, a slim man with an energetic step, was the seventh of 13 children in a family that descended from German immigrants, born and raised in southern Brazil.
"Cardinal Scherer is a man of humble origins, he actually recalls growing up in a place in Brazil where they could only celebrate Mass once a month... he knows the situation on the ground," said John Thavis, author of "The Vatican Diaries":
Scherer was ordained to priesthood at age 27 and holds a doctorate in theology from Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University.
He held numerous pastoral and teaching positions across Brazil before being appointed in 1994 to the Vatican's powerful Congregation for Bishops, where he stayed until 2001.
"That is incredibly important because that is a congregation where bishops come through every day. He would have known the people coming through and many of them are now Cardinals. He has good connections, in other words, people know him," Thavis said.
He was then sent back to Brazil, where he became the auxiliary bishop of Sao Paulo and served for five years as the secretary general of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops.
He became the Sao Paulo archbishop in 2007 and was named a cardinal later the same year.
Church watchers say Scherer is highly respected by Pope Benedict.
He was one of just two Latin Americans named to the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation that the pope created in 2010 as part of an effort to battle secularism in Europe and the loss of faithful to increasingly popular Pentecostal churches in Latin America, especially in Brazil.
Scherer hasn't backed down from what some see as harder-line positions, such as strongly and publicly rejecting same sex civil unions and a 2012 Brazilian Supreme Court ruling that allowed abortions in cases of foetuses with anencephaly, a severe developmental defect of the brain which is usually fatal.
Abortion is illegal in Brazil except when a pregnancy threatens the life of the mother, and in cases of rape.
Yet he's taken stands just as strongly on issues favoured by the left.
Scherer has praised the advances that liberation theology brought to Brazil's poor, though criticised its perceived Marxist connections.