VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 12, 2002 ( John Paul II recalled Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves' service to the Church and love for the poor, especially "his street children," when he presided over the Brazilian's funeral.

Cardinal Moreira Neves, prefect emeritus of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, died last Sunday in Rome at age 76.

A former president of the Brazilian episcopal conference and archbishop of San Salvador da Bahia, he was one of the outstanding Church figures in Latin America following the Second Vatican Council. Jounalists for years regarded him as a candidate for the papacy.

The funeral Mass was celebrated Wednesday afternoon in St. Peter's Basilica by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, vice dean of the College of Cardinals. The Pope delivered the homily and recalled that the deceased began his priestly ministry by assisting families and young people.

In Brazil, Father Moreira Neves also dedicated himself to giving spiritual assistance to intellectuals and journalists, as well as to theater and movie actors, the Pope added.

He said that Cardinal Moreira Neves' selflessness was especially edifying during his last days, when he was debilitated by diabetes.

During his active years, his mission was "more effective in virtue of his intimate union with the Lord," the Pope emphasized.

"Precisely, with this horizon of faith, our beloved brother lived all his life totally consecrated to God and to the service of the poorest, thus becoming a witness of that courageous faith that trusts God blindly," John Paul II said.

The Holy Father recalled especially the cardinal's work for the street children of Brazil, for whom he built a home and schools in San Salvador da Bahia.

After the Mass, Cardinal Ratzinger remembered his friend: "I admired his ability to explain things well, to mediate, to reconcile, but especially his theological charism."

"He was a Dominican; he had studied in France, and had great theological formation," he added. "He was a man of great spirituality, profound faith and radiant warmth; an affable man."

"I remember him as a spiritual man, a friend, in whom one felt his sympathy for men, enlightened by the love of Christ," Cardinal Ratzinger concluded.