Brazilian Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo dies at age 89

Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo died at his home in Londrina, Brazil, on Aug. 26, 2023. / Archdiocese of Londrina

Rome Newsroom, Aug 27, 2023 / 08:10 am (CNA).

Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo, archbishop emeritus of São Salvador da Bahia in Brazil, died Saturday morning at the age of 89.

According to the Archdiocese of Londrina, where Agnelo had been living since 2014, the cardinal’s health had been in decline since suffering a stroke in December 2022, and had worsened in recent days.

Masses, including the funeral rites, will be said for Agnelo every two hours in the Cathedral of Londrina from 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 27, to 10:00 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 28. The cardinal will be buried in the cathedral crypt following the last Mass on Aug. 28.

In a telegram of condolence for the cardinal’s death, Pope Francis praised Agnelo for his “long years of dedicated service to Holy Mother Church, always guided by apostolic zeal, in the various missions that have been entrusted to him...”

The bishops’ conference of Brazil said Agnelo had always stood out for “his friendliness and his virtue of creating bonds of friendship and communion between people.”

“His life was marked by a great love for the Church and a continuous dedication to the things of the Church, the service of the faith, and the witness of Christian life,” the Aug. 26 statement said.

The cardinal, the bishops continued, “always showed great zeal for the liturgy, for the good formation of priests and the Catholic people, and for unrestricted fidelity to the pope and the Church. He was an interpreter of the right liturgical reform desired by the Second Vatican Council.”

Agnelo, the third of eight children, was born in 1933 in Juiz de Fora.

After his ordination to the priesthood in 1957, he went on to study in Rome and to receive a doctorate in liturgy from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm.

Before becoming a bishop, the priest taught liturgical and sacramental theology at the Pius XI Theological Institute in São Paulo. He was also rector of Our Lady of the Assumption Seminary from 1974-1978.

In 1978, he was appointed bishop of Toledo. Just over four years later he was named archbishop of Londrina. He also served as president of the Brazilian bishops’ liturgical commission.

Besides the positions he held in Brazil, Agnelo also served at the Vatican from 1991-1999 as secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

In 1999, Agnelo was named archbishop of São Salvador da Bahia, and in 2001, St. Pope John Paul II made him a cardinal.

From 2003-2007, he was president of the Brazilian bishops’ conference and in May 2007, he was president of the “Conference of Aparecida,” a meeting of the Latin American and Caribbean bishops in Aparecida, Brazil, at which the future Pope Francis had a prominent role as chairman of the final document drafting committee.

Agnelo retired as archbishop of São Salvador da Bahia in 2011 at the age of 77.