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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Theological Notebook: The Death of Carlo Maria Cardinal Martini of Milan (1927-2012) 
1st-Sep-2012 12:11 pm
Jesuit Seal
Carlo Maria Cardinal Martini, S.J., Emeritus Archbishop of Milan – one of the truly notable successors of the mighty Ambrose of Milan – died yesterday, I just read. It's one of those pieces of bad news I've expected for some time. I was familiar with Martini from my the time of my Master's studies, where it became obvious that he was the great hope by many liberal Catholics as the one to succeed John Paul II (although I began to wonder whether anyone in the hierarchy could come close to being the sort of Pope that some American and news media liberals imagined). The buzz I heard from the conclave was that he had categorically refused to serve if elected, being in the early stages of his Parkinson's Disease, and after the slow decline of John Paul II in that way, insisted that Church didn't need to go through that twice in a row, and thus his candidacy quickly fell apart.

I used his letter exchanges in a Milanese newspaper with writer Umberto Eco – published as Belief or Non-Belief: A Dialogue (or, depending on the edition you choose, the subtitle is given as "A Confrontation") – as a resource for class. And Martini became a significant character and resource in my doctoral dissertation for his interaction and influence with fellow Jesuit Francis Sullivan as they both taught in Rome in the 1970s. Even from a continent away, I found him influential as a pastor through his writing and example. His modeling of a dialogical pastorate with moderns was persuasively executed, as he didn't at all sacrifice strength for choosing a style that declined to try to simply rely on authority of office: instead he relied on the strength of the message of the Gospel he conveyed. Today the Church seems a tiny bit emptier for his death – the sort of thing that we will too often experience as absence.
Cardinal Martini, liberal papal contender, dies
Aug 31, 2:28 PM (ET)
By NICOLE WINFIELD

Cardinal Martini, biblical scholar, former archbishop of Milan, dies
By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

Cardinal Martini, liberal papal contender, dies
Aug 31, 2:28 PM (ET)
By NICOLE WINFIELD

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Italian Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a rare liberal within the highly conservative Catholic Church hierarchy who was nevertheless considered a papal contender in the last conclave, died Friday. He was 85.

Martini, a Jesuit and former archbishop of the important archdiocese of Milan, had been battling Parkinson's disease for several years. His death at a Jesuit institute in Gallarate, near Varese, was announced by the Milan archdiocese, which said his condition had worsened Thursday evening.

Martini frequently voiced openness to discuss divisive issues for the church, such as priestly celibacy, homosexuality and using condoms to fight HIV transmission. While not at odds with church teaching, his views nevertheless showed his progressive bent. He was an intellectual and a noted biblical scholar, yet he had a warm and personable style and seemed to connect with his flock like few high-ranking prelates.

And, despite his liberal views in a College of Cardinals that grew increasingly conservative under Pope John Paul II, he was considered "papabile," or having the qualities of a pope, going into the 2005 conclave that brought the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, to the papacy.

Benedict was told Thursday that Martini's death was near, and on Friday issued a heartfelt letter of condolence, praising his "dear brother" for serving the church generously and faithfully for so long. He cited Martini's tenure as rector of the Jesuit's Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and of the Pontifical Biblical Institute as well as his "diligent and sage" leadership of Milan's Catholic faithful.

Martini was well known and well-liked by Italians, many of whom got to know him by his frequent contributions to leading daily Corriere della Sera, which for three years ran a popular column "Letters to Cardinal Martini," in which Martini would respond directly to questions submitted by readers.

The topics covered everything from the clerical sex abuse scandal to whether it was morally acceptable for a Catholic to be cremated ("it's possible and allowed," he wrote). His responses were filled with Biblical citations and references to church teachings, but were accessible as well, written as if he were chatting with his readers rather than preaching to them.

Martini also wasn't afraid to discuss issues that, while important to many lay Catholics, are usually considered off-limits by his colleagues.

In 2006, he raised eyebrows at the Vatican when he told the Italian weekly L'Espresso that condoms could be considered a "lesser evil" in combating AIDS, particularly for a married couple. While somewhat revolutionary at the time, his views seem to have struck a chord: Four years later, Benedict himself came close to echoing Martini's sentiment when he said a male prostitute who intends to use a condom might be taking a step toward a more responsible sexuality because he was looking out for the welfare of his partner.



In 2009, Martini insisted he was misquoted by a German publication as calling for a re-evaluation of priestly celibacy as a means to combat pedophilia among priests.

But he returned to the topic of priestly celibacy earlier this year- as well as a host of other thorny issues like artificial procreation, embryo donation and euthanasia - in his last book "Believe and Know," a conversation with a left-leaning Italian politician and doctor who had been his same interviewer for the 2006 Espresso article.

As a result of his openness to discussing sensitive issues, liberal Catholics had pinned their hopes on Martini going into the 2005 conclave, and some reports in the Italian media said he had received significant votes in the initial rounds of balloting.

But according to the most detailed account of the conclave to emerge - that of a purported diary kept by an unnamed cardinal - Martini was never really in the running. Instead, Ratzinger's main challenger was another conservative, Argentine Cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio.

Martini retired as Milan archbishop in 2002 and moved to Jerusalem to devote himself to prayer and study. He had long established relations with the Jewish community, writing books and articles on the relations between Christianity and Judaism.

"Without a sincere feeling for the Jewish world, and a direct experience of it, one cannot fully understand Christianity," he wrote in the book "Christianity and Judaism: A Historical and Theological Overview.""Jesus is fully Jewish, the apostles are Jewish, and one cannot doubt their attachment to the traditions of their forefathers."

Born on Feb. 15, 1927, in Turin, Martini was ordained a priest in the Society of Jesus in 1952. After terms as rector at the Gregorian and Biblical Institute, he was named archbishop of Milan in 1979 and held the post until his retirement in 2002; within that time he was also head of the European Bishops' Conference for six years, until 1993.

In a statement Friday, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi paid tribute to his fellow Jesuit, saying his style as a pastor set him apart. He quoted Martini as writing in his book "The Bishop" that a bishop can't guide his flock with decrees and prohibitions alone.

"Instead point to the interior formation, on the love and fascination with the Sacred Scripture, present the positive reasons for what we do according to the Gospel," Martini wrote. "You will obtain much more than with rigid calls to observe norms."

Despite his desire to spend his final years in Jerusalem, Martini returned to Italy a few years ago as his Parkinson's worsened. By the end, he was wheelchair bound and could barely speak.

In June, he announced he could no longer continue with his Corriere della Sera Q&A column.

"The time has come in which age and sickness have given me a clear signal that it's time to resign from earthly things and prepare for the next coming of the Kingdom," he wrote his readers. "I assure you of my prayers for all the questions that went unanswered."

A funeral was scheduled for Monday in Milan's cathedral, where bells tolled on Friday afternoon upon word of Martini's death.


Cardinal Martini, biblical scholar, former archbishop of Milan, dies
By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- 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.

In a telegram to Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan, Pope Benedict praised Cardinal Martini's generous service to the Gospel and the church and his "intense apostolic work" as a Jesuit, a professor and "authoritative biblicist."

As archbishop of Milan, the pope said, Cardinal Martini helped open for the church community "the treasures of the sacred Scriptures." The pope prayed that God would welcome the cardinal into "the heavenly Jerusalem."

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.

In a November 2004 speech at Rome's Gregorian University, he told Catholics they could not understand their faith unless they understood the Jewish faith practiced by Jesus and his disciples.

"It is vital for the church not only to understand the ancient covenant (between God and the Jewish people) which has endured for centuries in order to launch a fruitful dialogue, but also to deepen our own understanding of who we are as the church," he said.

Even in retirement, the cardinal kept up with issues of importance in the life of the church. He was sought after for interviews and frequently published opinion pieces in Italian newspapers.

After Pope Benedict eased restrictions on the celebration of the pre-Vatican II liturgy in 2007, Cardinal Martini wrote a newspaper column explaining why, even though he loved the Latin language and could even preach in Latin, he would not celebrate the old Mass.

He said he admired Pope Benedict "benevolence" in allowing Catholics "to praise God with ancient and new forms" by permitting wider use of the 1962 form of the Mass, but his experience as a bishop had convinced him of the importance of a common liturgical prayer to express Catholics' unity of belief.

The cardinal also said the reformed liturgy that came out of the Second Vatican Council marked "a real step forward" in nourishing Catholics "with the word of God, offered in a much more abundant way than before," with a much larger selection of Scripture readings.

In a 2008 book-length interview titled "Nighttime Conversations in Jerusalem," Cardinal Martini said Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical "Humanae Vitae" ("Of Human Life"), which taught that artificial birth control was morally wrong, led many Catholics to distance themselves from the church and from listening to and being challenged by the Catholic vision of human sexuality.

While not specifically addressing the morality of contraception, the cardinal said the church needed to take a more pastoral approach to questions of sexuality. "The church should always treat questions of sexuality and the family in such a way that a leading and decisive role is up to the responsibility of the person who loves," he said.

Born in Orbassano, near Turin, Italy, Feb. 15, 1927, Carlo Maria Martini entered the Society of Jesus in 1944, was ordained a priest July 13, 1952, and took his final vows as a Jesuit in 1962.

The cardinal, a biblical scholar, never held a parish post. With doctorates in theology and biblical studies, he was a seminary professor in Chieri, Italy, 1958-1961; professor and later rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, 1969-1978; and rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University from July 1978 until his December 1979 appointment to Milan.

After his retirement in 2002, he moved to Jerusalem and purchased a burial plot there but returned to Milan after his health worsened in 2008. He died in a Jesuit retirement home near Milan, surrounded by his Jesuit confreres and members of his family.

When he was named archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Martini was the first Jesuit in 35 years to head an Italian archdiocese. Pope John Paul II ordained him an archbishop Jan. 6, 1980, in St. Peter's Basilica and named him a cardinal in 1983.

A well-known speaker and retreat master, he served as spiritual director of the U.S. bishops' spring meeting in Collegeville, Minn., in 1986. In that role, he conducted a day of recollection on the first day and presented a series of reflections during morning prayers throughout the meeting.

Cardinal Martini's death leaves the College of Cardinals with 206 members, 118 of whom are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope.


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