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Catholic world mourns renowned biblical scholar Cardinal Martini

By on Friday, 31 August 2012

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini with Pope Benedict in 2005 (AP)

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini with Pope Benedict in 2005 (AP)

Italian Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a renowned biblical scholar and former Archbishop of Milan, died today aged 85 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Pope Benedict XVI met the cardinal privately during a visit to Milan in June and had been informed of his failing health, the Vatican press office said.

The cardinal was a prolific author whose books were bestsellers 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 Church-wide 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 practised 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 called Nighttime Conversations in Jerusalem, Cardinal Martini said Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, which taught that 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, on February 15 1927, Carlo Maria Martini entered the Society of Jesus in 1944, was ordained a priest on 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, from 1958 to 1961, professor and later rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome from 1969 to 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 lead an Italian archdiocese. Pope John Paul II ordained him an archbishop on January 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 US bishops’ spring meeting in Collegeville, Minnesota, 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.

  • O’hEarain

    FIRST READING: 1 Corinthians 3:18-23Make no mistake about it:
    if any one of you thinks of himself as wise, in the ordinary sense of the word,
    then he must learn to be a fool before he really can be wise.

    Why? Because the
    wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.

    As scripture says: The Lord knows
    wise men’s thoughts: he knows how useless they are: or again: God is not
    convinced by the arguments of the wise.

    So there is nothing to boast about in
    anything human: Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life and death, the present
    and the future, are all your servants; but you belong to Christ and Christ
    belongs to God.

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    yatta yatta yatta. 

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    Been on the gin, Sweetjae?

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    Cardinal Martini was in favour of homosexual “unions”: what a surprise.

    http://abbey-roads.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/shaken-not-stirred-cardinal-martini.html

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    The teaching of the Church (which Jesus promised would never be defeated by Hell) is different from the tradition of the pharisees.

  • gjml

    That’s right – you can’t really understand Christianity unless you understand the Jewish faith – Jesus was a Jew! How do you recognise these ‘true apostles’ for your leadership? If they have little or no scholarship and/or have intellect but refuse to use it, won’t their own experiences of the holy spirit take them in all different directions too? Were not your church dogmas laid down over the centuries by long debate and discussion by scholars? I would guess the early church fathers were very learned men who prayed but didn’t sit around waiting to be moved.

  • gjml

    If the church ends up being 500 people it wasn’t a very efficient way for God to spread the message was it?
    You bring God down to some cantankerous old man who likes nothing but a good series of rituals instead of an all seeing power! Take a step back and look – so many claims to be the  ‘only way to God’ and so many religious groups confident and arrogant enough to believe (sorry, know) they’re the only RIGHT one. In your case, there might be 500 Catholics out of the whole world’s population who are right, the rest of humanity is wrong, and furthermore, the rest are DAMNED!  That might appear to be arrogance at its best!
     They are ALL different HUMAN interpretations of their chosen texts developed over hundreds of years…Get real.

  • O’hEarain

    FIRST READING: 1
    Corinthians 4:1-5

    People must think of us as Christ’s servants, stewards entrusted with the
    mysteries of God.

    What is expected of stewards is that each one should be found
    worthy of his trust.

    Not that it makes the slightest difference to me whether
    you, or indeed any human tribunal, find me worthy or not. I will not even pass
    judgement on myself.

    True, my conscience does not reproach me at all, but that
    does not prove that I am acquitted: the Lord alone is my judge.

    There must be
    no passing of premature judgement. Leave that until the Lord comes; he will
    light up all that is hidden in the dark and reveal the secret intentions of
    men’s hearts. Then will be the time for each one to have whatever praise he
    deserves, from God.

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com/ EditorCT

    Unless you were born or live in Rome, You’re NOT a “Roman Catholic”
    http://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/churb3.htm

  • http://twitter.com/morani58 Michael Moran

    There is plenty of Catholics of the same mind as him,Great Great Great Catholic.

  • gjml

    Sorry, I only just read this (I should learn not to get distracted by extremist ranting). Very interesting. How very sad that all this clear thinking is being swept under the conservative carpet. I’ve read a lot about church history and I just cannot understand how some Catholics can ignore the utterly human input into the way its orthodoxy has developed. There were some very unsavoury characters who, it seems, are believed to have had this so called ‘divine inspiration’, and many good people who were shabbily treated in the name of orthodoxy. Church history has been all about politics. I know it’s an old chestnut, which makes some folk squirm with irritation but: what WOULD Jesus the man say if he was plonked into the middle of the Vatican???

  • gjml

     Sorry, I only just read this (I should learn not to get distracted by extremist ranting). Very interesting. How very sad that all this clear thinking is being swept under the conservative carpet. I’ve read a lot about church history and I just cannot understand how some Catholics can ignore the utterly human input into the way its orthodoxy has developed. There were some very unsavoury characters who, it seems, are believed to have had this so called ‘divine inspiration’, and many good people who were shabbily treated in the name of orthodoxy. Church history has been all about politics. I know it’s an old chestnut, which makes some folk squirm with irritation but: what WOULD Jesus the man say if he was plonked into the middle of the Vatican??? 

  • gjml

    Sorry, I only just read this (I should learn not to get distracted by extremist ranting). Very interesting. How very sad that all this clear thinking is being swept under the conservative carpet. I’ve read a lot about church history and I just cannot understand how some Catholics can ignore the utterly human input into the way its orthodoxy has developed. There were some very unsavoury characters who, it seems, are believed to have had this so called ‘divine inspiration’, and many good people who were shabbily treated in the name of orthodoxy. Church history has been all about politics. I know it’s an old chestnut, which makes some folk squirm with irritation but: what WOULD Jesus the man say if he was plonked into the middle of the Vatican???

  • Cafeteria R.C.

    May Cardinal Martini good honest words live on in the history book as well as help steer the winds of change cause by the members voting with their feet to blow the old fig leafs away for good with the dark age. One of many, a cafeteria RC.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    members voting with their feet

    It is very interesting for you to mention that.
    The liberal Protestant denominations are all collapsing. The only Christian denominations that grow are the Holy Catholic Church, the Evangelicals, and (unfortunately) certain weird sects (such as the Jenovah Witnesses, seventh-day Adventists and Mormons).

    Inside the Catholic Church, LCWR and Liberation Theology are dying, while Opus Dei, Charismatic Renewal, CMSWR and Traditionalism are growing.

    The facts are clear: heresy is infertile, while Faith is fertile and grows.

  • O’hEarain

    Rubbish!