Skip to content

UPDATE: Papal contender Cardinal Scherer an advocate of the human right to water


Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer currently serves as the Archbishop of São Paulo, Brazil. It is possible that he may succeed Benedict XVI as Pope to the 1.2 billion members of the Catholic Church worldwide. Globe and Mail columnist Eric Reguly has commented, “The bookmakers currently rank Cardinal Scherer second, with 4-to-1 odds, putting him behind Italy’s Angelo Scola and ahead of Ghana’s Peter Turkson and Marc Ouellet of Canada.” This could have implications on campaigns to implement the human right to water and sanitation in that Cardinal Scherer was an advocate for these rights more than five years before they were recognized in the historic July 2010 vote by the United Nations General Assembly.On April 22, 2005, Dom Odilo Pedro Scherer, then the general secretary of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, signed a joint statement that said, “We, the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches of Brazil and Switzerland (demand) that the human right to water be recognized at the local and international level in the same way as the right to adequate food (and) that water must be treated as a public good.” This statement also noted, “In the recent past, in many countries transnational corporations have taken over the control of water resources and water management. In many cases their presence has led to a rise of water prices. Europe is the seat of the headquarters of the main companies in the water sector, and although not all public utilities have been efficient, these corporations have been promoting the privatisation of water services as the only solution to increasing water distribution solving sanitation problems in southern countries. European governments and their foreign aid policies currently support this view. It is the responsibility of the churches in Europe to call for a more equal share of European aid to support public water services in the South and to watch that no undue political pressure is made through European institutions to privatise their water supplies (this privatisation is true also of some central and eastern European regions and countries). Rather the churches should endorse the right of poorer countries and communities to access water, and to maintain the control and management of their own water resources.” The document can be read at here and here. This week, Michael Valpy wrote more critically in his CBC.ca column, “Cardinal Scherer has acquired a reputation as a deft broker between conservative and progressive elements in the church, capable of avoiding what Vatican watchers have called negative tonal utterances. In other words, he can say the same things about homosexuality and abortion as more combative cardinals, but they don’t sound as bad. He also supported the environmental movement and liberation theology’s social justice aims (but not its Marxist philosophical underpinnings).” It should also be noted that a Vatican document published at the time of the 6th World Water Forum in 2012 stated that governments should “consider water a common resource and not saleable goods (and therefore) water management with a non-merchandising approach (is required)”. Blue Planet Project founder Maude Barlow commented to the media at that time, “To have the Vatican, with its outreach to millions around the world side with the poor, indigenous and rural communities on the side of water justice is good news indeed.” For more, please read: NEWS: The Pope comments on the World Water Forum NEWS: Manitoba chief meets Pope, asks him to address right to water in Canada