RIP, Cardinal Martini

One-time papal contender Cardinal Martini has died:

Italian Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a renowned biblical scholar and former archbishop of Milan, died Aug. 31 at the age of 85 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Pope Benedict XVI met privately with the cardinal during a visit to Milan in June, and was informed of his ailing health Aug. 30, the Vatican press office said.

The cardinal was a prolific author whose books were best-sellers in Italy and included everything from scholarly biblical exegesis to poetry and prayer guides.

He retired as archbishop of Milan in 2002, where he was known as a strong pastor and administrator, and as a very careful, thoughtful advocate of wider discussion and dialogue on some delicate and controversial church positions.

At various times, he expressed openness to the possibility of allowing married Latin-rite priests under certain circumstances, ordaining women as deacons and allowing Communion for some divorced Catholics in subsequent marriages not approved by the church.

During a special Synod of Bishops for Europe in 1999, he made waves when he proposed a new churchwide council or assembly to unravel “doctrinal and disciplinary knots” such as the shortage of priests, the role of women, the role of laity and the discipline of marriage. His carefully worded remarks reflected his belief that the church would benefit from a wider exercise of collegiality, or the shared responsibility of bishops for the governance of the church. The idea of a new council was not taken up formally by the synod.

Following his retirement, his interests focused on biblical studies, Catholic-Jewish dialogue and praying for peace in the Middle East.

In a September 2004 message to a symposium on the Holy Land and interreligious dialogue, the cardinal wrote that Christians who visit Jerusalem should suspend judgment on the political situation there and simply pray for both sides. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict had become so complicated and painful that even an expert would have trouble sorting it out, he said.

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Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him…


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