Dom Serafim Fernandes de Araújo was born on August 13, 1924, in Minas Novas, in Alto Jequitinhonha (MG). He lived his childhood in Itamarandiba, also in the Jequitinhonha region, and at the age of 12 he began to study at the Diamantina Seminary, where he graduated in Humanities in 1942 and in Philosophy in 1944.
He was chosen to study in Rome, where he obtained a Masters in Theology and Canon Law from the Pontifical Gregorian University. His priestly ordination took place on March 12, 1949, at the Cathedral of St. John Lateran in Rome.
He returned to Brazil and celebrated his first Mass on September 17, 1951, in Itamarandiba. He was pastor of Gouveia (MG), where he remained from 1951 to 1957. During this same period he served as chaplain of Companhia Industrial de São Roberto. From 1956 to 1957 he assumed the position of military chaplain of the 3rd Military Battalion of the Military Police of Minas Gerais. He was also director of Religious Education of the Archdiocese of Diamantina and professor of Canon Law at the Provincial Seminary. In Curvelo, where he was parish priest in 1957 and canon from 1958 to 1959, he also acted as a teacher in several schools.
Sacred bishop on May 7, 1959, with only 34 years (he was the newest bishop of Brazil), he moved to Belo Horizonte to be auxiliary of Dom João Resende Costa. He also assumed the positions of general vicar, administrator and director of Religious Education of the Archdiocese, as well as became professor of Religious Culture at the Catholic University. In 1960, he became the rector.
Dom Serafim participated in the Second Vatican Council, from 1962 to 1965. The bishop also traveled to several countries, visiting universities, to participate in seminars and congresses on education. He was a member of the Federal Council of Education from 1978 to 1982.In 1986, Dom Serafim took up as metropolitan archbishop, succeeding Dom João Resende Costa.
Named Cardinal on January 18, 1998, he received his Cardinal Investiture on February 21 and 22 of the same year, from the hands of Pope John Paul II. He remained Metropolitan Archbishop of Belo Horizonte until 2004.
Since becoming archbishop emeritus, Dom Serafim is dedicated to the José Fernandes de Araújo Foundation, as president of the institution. Each and every day, the Cardinal is present at the Foundation’s office, being a source of inspiration and the great motivator for the team.