First Cardinal from Honduras awarded ACU’s highest honour
Thursday, 17 October 2013
Cardinal Rodríguez attended ACU’s graduation ceremony in Sydney
His Eminence Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, SDB, was recently awarded the highest honour of Australian Catholic University, Doctor of the University (honoris causa), in recognition of his significant contribution to the advancement and promotion of justice and peace in our world.
As a small boy His Eminence Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga aimed for the clouds, playing music and dreaming of becoming a pilot. He ended up reaching a higher calling, to the priesthood, and has risen through its ranks to become Archbishop of Tegucigalpa in Honduras. Throughout his career he has been a strong defender of human rights and the fight against poverty, and was an early champion of the need to address climate change affecting people and the environment.
The third of four children, His Eminence was born in 1942 in such poor health that his parents Andrés Rodríguez Palacios and Raquel Maradiaga feared for their baby’s frail health. Cardinal Rodríguez enjoyed a simple upbringing, surrounded by music, learning and faith. He played saxophone as a child and went on to train in piano and music in El Salvador, Guatemala and the United States. He is an accomplished pilot, speaks six languages, and managed to find time for extended studies, earning degrees in philosophy and theology, and a diploma in clinical psychology and psychotherapy.
Cardinal Rodríguez is a priest, teacher, professor and advocate of those in need. He entered the Salesians aged 19, inspired by the life and work of St John Bosco, and in 1970 he was ordained a priest in Guatemala City. Following his ordination he was appointed the Bishop’s assistant in Tegucigalpa. From 1975-1978 he was Rector at Guatemala's Francisco Marroquín University and has taught music, physics and chemistry at Salesian colleges in South America for 15 years. Cardinal Rodríguez was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Tegucigalpa and titular bishop of Pudentiana in 1978, and 15 years later was appointed Archbishop of Tegucigalpa.
Pope John Paul II created Archbishop Rodríguez Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria della Speranza in the consistory of 21 February 2001. He is the first Cardinal from Honduras.
In addition to his episcopal responsibilities as Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, His Eminence is the President of the Episcopal Conference of Honduras. He was one of the Cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 and 2013 papal conclaves that elected both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. Since 2012, he has been a member of the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Vatican Congregation that has responsibility for Catholic education around the world (including Catholic universities); and in April this year Pope Francis appointed him to chair a group Cardinals to advise a plan for revising the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia, "Pastor Bonus".
Cardinal Rodríguez has been president of Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic Church’s international aid and development agency since 2007 and is the global representative of the Caritas Confederation, where he is regarded as one of the great prophetic voices in the contemporary Church for the poor and the dispossessed. Even before he was elected president he promoted humanitarian and development projects for the poor in his own country of Honduras, one of the poorest in Latin America, and as Secretary General and then President of CELAM (Latin American Episcopal Council). Basing his thoughts on Catholic Social Doctrine, he has spoken throughout the world on justice for the poor and has been a tireless advocate for debt relief for the poorest nations and for an end to structural adjustment programs which impoverish them even further. This is a battle that has, in part been, won by his and others’ advocacy efforts.
His Eminence has dedicated his life to "a fundamental concern for justice and equity, and for the dignity of all human beings" and remains the main spokesman of the Catholic Church universally on debt relief and related issues. He was the Vatican's spokesperson with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on the issue of Third World debt. He continues to challenge leaders of the world’s richest nations to keep their promises to increase and improve development aid to the world’s poorest countries.