Italy mourns Cardinal Martini, 'a great evangeliser'

The funeral will be held in Milan's Duomo on Monday

Italy mourns Cardinal Martini, 'a great evangeliser'

(ANSA) - Milan, August 31 - Church bells in Milan sounded the death knell on Friday to announce the passing away of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini at the age of 85. The body of the popular cardinal and former archbishop of Milan will be laid out in Milan cathedral from 12 noon local time on Saturday for people to pay their last respects. The funeral will be held in the cathedral on Monday at 4 pm. Meanwhile messages of condolence flooded in from Italy's ecclesiastical, political and cultural establishment following the news of Martini's death from Parkinson's after an illness lasting many years. Many focused on and reflected the prelate's ability to bring people together across religious and political divides. "The death of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini is an event that generates great emotion well beyond the confines of the albeit vast archdiocese of Milan, which he headed for 22 years," said the director of the Vatican press office Father Federico Lombardi, a member of the Society of Jesus like the deceased. "He was a bishop who with his word, his numerous written works, his innovative pastoral initiatives managed to witness to and announce effectively the Christian faith to the men of our time, earning the esteem and respect of people near and far," he added, describing the late cardinal as "a great evangeliser". "Difficult times require words of wisdom and hope from great men," said Giuliano Pisapia, mayor of Milan. "Carlo Maria Martini illuminated the way for the entire city, not just for part of it. For this reason, today more than ever, Milan mourns its archbishop". "Today a giant of Catholic thinking has left us, one of the most important figures of the last century," said lawmaker Francesco Boccia of the centre-left Democratic Party, warning against sterile discussions over "therapeutic obstinacy" after it emerged earlier in the day that the cardinal had refused artificial feeding during his final hours. Born in Turin in 1927, Martini entered the Society of Jesus in 1944 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1952. He served as the archbishop of Milan from 1980 until his retirement in 2002, when he moved to the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Jerusalem to continue his work as a biblical scholar. He passed away at the Jesuit-run Aloisianum college in Gallarate (Varese) near Milan, where he had been living and receiving treatment since his return to Italy from Jerusalem in 2008. Martini was considered one of the more liberal high-ranking representatives of the Catholic Church.

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