His Eminence 
Humberto Sousa Medeiros
Archbishop of Boston
See Boston
Enthroned October 7, 1970
Reign ended September 17, 1983
Predecessor Richard Cushing
Successor Bernard Law
Ordination June 15, 1946
Consecration June 9, 1966
Created Cardinal March 5, 1973
Other Bishop of Brownsville (1966-70)
Personal details
Born October 6, 1915(1915-10-06)
Arrifes, São Miguel Island, Azores
Died September 17, 1983 (aged 67)
Boston, Massachusetts
Styles of
Humberto Sousa Medeiros
CardinalCoA PioM
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
See Boston

Humberto Sousa Medeiros (October 6, 1915—September 17, 1983) was a Portuguese American clergyman of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Boston from 1970 until his death in 1983, and was created a cardinal in 1973.

Early life

Humberto Sousa Medeiros was born in Arrifes, on the island of São Miguel, Azores, to Antonio Medeiros and Maria de Jesus Sousa Massa Flor.[1] He was baptized in the parish of Nossa Senhora da Saúde on November 1, 1915.[1] His father raised vegetables and ran a small variety store until 1931, when the family emigrated to the United States and settled in Fall River, Massachusetts.[2] The family there attended St. Michael's Church, the local Portuguese parish.

Humberto swept floors in a local textile mill for $6.20 a day, studying English in his spare time.[2] After graduating from B.M.C. Durfee High School in 1937, he entered the Catholic University of America. He obtained a Master of Philosophy degree in 1942 and a Licentiate of Sacred Theology in 1946.[2]


Medeiros was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop James Edwin Cassidy on June 15, 1946.[3] He then returned to the Diocese of Fall River, where he was assigned to St. John of God Church in Somerset. In 1949, he returned to Catholic University to pursue his doctoral studies. He earned a Doctor of Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1952.[2] After returning to Fall River, he was assigned to Holy Name Church and named assistant chancellor of the diocese. He later served as vicar for religious, vice-chancellor, and finally chancellor before becoming a Monsignor in 1958. He became pastor of St. Michael's Church in 1960.[1]

Episcopal career

Bishop of Brownsville

On April 14, 1966, Medeiros was appointed Bishop of Brownsville, Texas, by Pope Paul VI.[3] He received his episcopal consecration on the following June 9 from Bishop James Louis Connolly, with Bishops James Joseph Gerrard and Gerald Vincent McDevitt serving as co-consecrators, at St. Mary's Cathedral.[3]

His appointment to the Southern Texas diocese came at the time of a threatened farm workers' strike.[2] Since many members of the diocese were Mexican-American migrant workers, Medeiros became an advocate on behalf of the workers, supporting their demands for a minimum wage at $1.25 an hour.[2] He also became known as an outspoken opponent of capitalism, denouncing an economic system that "considers profit the key motive for economic progress, competition the maximum law of economics, and private ownership of the means of production an absolute right that carries no corresponding social obligations."[2]

During his tenure, Medeiros sold the episcopal limousine, converted all but one room of the episcopal residence into a dormitory for visiting priests, and often traveled with migrant workers to celebrate Mass in the fields during the harvest season.[2]

Archbishop of Boston

Medeiros was later named the fourth Archbishop of Boston on September 8, 1970.[3] Replacing the retiring Richard Cushing, he was formally installed on October 7 of that year[3] and, to date, was the only non-Irish head of the Boston archdiocese. In 1971, Medeiros described abortion as "the new barbarism".[4] As in Brownsville, he became an advocate for the poor in Boston as well.[5] An opponent of the Vietnam War, the Archbishop condemned the bombing of Hanoi in a 1972 Christmas sermon.[5]

Pope Paul VI created him Cardinal Priest of Santa Susanna in the consistory of March 5, 1973.[3] Medeiros pleaded with the Vatican to lift the excommunication of Rev. Leonard Feeney, SJ, who disobeyed Church authority and took a strict interpretation of the doctrine of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.[6] In 1974, the Cardinal refused to allow the baptism of the child of a Marlboro woman who supported the establishment of an abortion-information clinic.[7] He strongly supported busing and refused to let parents enroll their children in parochial schools as a means of avoiding it.[6] In May 1976, he spoke out against the racism in South Boston but apologized the following week.[8] He served as a special papal envoy to the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fátima in Portugal in May 1977.[1]

Medeiros was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the conclaves of August and October 1978, which selected Popes John Paul I and John Paul II, respectively. Following John Paul I's sudden death, he said, "I've been trying to say to God, 'It's your doing, and I must accept it.'"[9] Before the primaries for the 1980 congressional elections, Medeiros issued a pastoral letter that stated, "Those who make abortion possible by law cannot separate themselves from the guilt which accompanies this horrendous crime and deadly sin."[10] His words were considered to be directed at pro-choice candidates James Shannon and Barney Frank, and criticized by some as violating the separation of church and state.[10]

Medeiros died from heart failure during open heart surgery in Boston, at age 67. He was laid to rest in Saint Patrick's Cemetery in his hometown of Fall River. Massachusetts Governor (and future Democratic presidential nominee) Michael Dukakis described him as a "gentle, compassionate man."


The Cardinal Medeiros Trust fund was created in 1981 by the Texas Knights of Columbus State Council Charities in his honor to provide educational grants to families of Knights.

Boston College named the freshman honors dormitory "Medeiros" in his honor.


Episcopal Lineage
Consecrated by: James Louis Connolly
Date of consecration: June 9, 1966
Consecrator of
Bishop Date of consecration
Lawrence Joseph Riley February 2, 1972
Joseph Francis Maguire February 2, 1972
Thomas Vose Daily February 11, 1975
John Michael D'Arcy February 11, 1975
Joseph John Ruocco February 11, 1975
John Joseph Mulcahy February 11, 1975
Daniel Anthony Hart October 18, 1976
Alfred Clifton Hughes September 14, 1981
Preceded by
Richard Cushing
Archbishop of Boston
Succeeded by
Bernard Francis Law
Preceded by
Adolph Marx
Bishop of Brownsville
Succeeded by
John Joseph Fitzpatrick
no:Humberto Sousa Medeirospt:Humberto Sousa Medeiros

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