To the delight of all concerned with human rights as affected by environmental issues, on 20 May Pope Francis announced that Pedro Barreto, Archbishop of Huancayo, would be one of 14 new cardinals to be created on 29 June.
Barreto entered the Jesuit order in 1961. He describes how his true awakening to environmental and human rights issues came about following his posting in 2002 to Jaén in the northern Amazon region. “I discovered my vocation listening to our Wampis brothers and sisters”, he said in an interview with Catholic News Service.
He was later moved to be archbishop of Huancayo, where he has confronted the tough issues of contamination and labour conditions at the La Oroya smelter, facing death threats for his stand. He was also an outspoken critic of the Kuczynski government’s policy of weakening environmental controls in order to boost investment. He has been a prime mover behind REPAM, the Pan-American Church Network which came into existence in 2014. He is currently heavily involved in the preparation for the Synod for the Amazon, scheduled for October 2019.
The NGO Cooperacción, for one, sees his appointment as strengthening the fight of communities for respect for human rights and a healthy environment
This is the first time that Peru has had two cardinals. His appointment is widely seen as balancing the existing highly conservative cardinal, Juan Luis Cipriani.