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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.

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    At last, thanks be to God! Another of the Destroyer Generation departed from us.

    RIP etc.

  • nytor

    May he rest in peace – but his views were dangerous and wrong-headed.

  • Info Mtkenya

    lest in peace beloved servant of God

  • Mario Borg

    Can you please pass on this comment to the priest (if one can call him a priest) Lucie. Tell him not to invent things which are not true. Lucie came out totally against Mintoff with no respect at all in a time of mourning. This is no action of a real catholic. No wonder the majority of people do not care anymore about practicing catholiscm. We love Mintoff for what he did for Malta. Mintoff was a real follower of Jesus as he helped the poor and took the people out of  poverty and ignorance which the catholic church in Malta together with English colonial powers strove hard to keep the people in. You seem to take offensive because Mintoff was anti British. Who cares about the British? Mintoff was on the side of Malta and he had to fight hard to give the island its frredom both politically and economically.
    Fr Lucie why don’t you come to Malta and sit down with us and have a civilised discussion instead of throwing mud about a colossus of a politician who died and cannot give you a reply.

    Mario Borg

  • Croasdell

    He was a peace maker and a good man.  

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    From Mundabor’s blog:

    “It is well-known the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer had been condemned to pay a pension to a woman he had inadvertently caused to fall (if memory serves) from the stairs, getting a permanent injury from the fall. When the woman died, the always rather dry Schopenhauer wrote in his account book the Latin words “Obit Anus, Abit Onus”: the old person has died, the burden is lifted. Fitting words, I think, to comment the recent news”.

  • Wilalex63

    Raequem eternam dona eis Domine et lux perpetua luceat eis raequescat in pace , Amen

  • Jamiemedland

    Disgraceful comment!

  • O’hEarain

    Another “good” christian comment from Ælfrid the Mercian

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    Edited by author

  • JabbaPapa

    Are there NO depths of shame and disgrace that you’re not prepared to plumb ???

    Your opinions are consistently objectionable, atrocious, and uncatholic.

  • JabbaPapa

  • JabbaPapa

    And then you *dare* accuse others of sinful online comments …

  • JabbaPapa

    Get behind me …

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    Edited by author

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    Edited by author

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    Edited by author

  • O’hEarain

    But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you;

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    Edited by author

  • Charles

    Focusing on issues, not the deceased, is appropriate; the church will no longer be taken seriously if it flip flops on the issues on women priests and deacons. As being a Catholic requires hard work, no one will bother making the effort unless they are sure of its correctness. If the leadership casts doubt on its correctness then why bother making the effort to be Catholic at all? The church needs clear, consistent, and strong messages of what it mean to be Catholic.

  • Erwann

    santo subito!

  • Michael Davis

    The late Cardinal Archbishop of Milan was frequently referred to
    as the “Liberal Lion of Vatican II.” He was often at odds with the official
    teachings of the Church.A wonderful priest I know studied in Rome and
    many of his classes were at the Pontifical Gregorian University, where the late
    Cardinal was rector for many years. This solidly orthodox priest told me that
    all the seminarians referred to the Jesuit university in Rome as “the Death
    Star” as it reminded them of the dark, gloomy, bare and artifical world shown in
    Star Wars. He said it was a hotbed of heterodoxy and the seminarians considered
    it “a miracle” if students “came out of it with their faith in tact.”
    Such was the legacy of the Cardinal.May God have mercy on his

  • Rowan carstairs

    All those empty churches Martini moaned about were the direct consequence of his Modernism and the anti-Catholic views he preached. He will answer now for the souls he should have led to Christ but didn’t. 

  • Chric

    Frankly, most firm believing Catholics will agree that a number of his views go against the deposit of faith as espoused by the early Church Fathers. His death will be an unlamented one at best. Just like other liberal leaning theologians that has infested the Roman Church during and after the disastrous Vatican Council II.Till this day, I don’t understand why some people continue to heap praises to Vatican Council II. It is no more than a pastoral council as explained by the head of St Pius X Society. It is not a doctrinal council a la Coucil of Nicea, Council of Trent and Vatican Council I. Take Vatican II out of the list of Church Councils, you will find that the Roman Church can still stand high with her 2 legs. Take Council of Trent and Vatican Council I out of the list of official Church Councils, the Roman Church would probably have bled to her death.

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    Remembering (due to critics of my rather caustic posts on the death of this man) that one shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, I deleted all my earlier posts on this thread. 

    And then saw that the rabidly anti-Catholic BBC has used its biggest font size to trumpet the publication of Martini’s last interview (of just a few days ago) in which he called, in effect, for the overthrow of the Church. 

    So it’s back to Square One: yes, may God have mercy on the soul of Martini, but I for one cannot find any sorrow in my heart at his passing but only pleasure. 

    His generation has done its utmost to turn all Catholics into Protestants, and they have very nearly succeeded (as we see on these comment pages all too often). They and their Council have eviscerated the Catholic Church. One hopes the rest of the “Destroyer generation” follows him with all speed. 

  • JabbaPapa

    His remarks have been greatly distorted by the secular Press.

    Link to the interview (Italian) :

    He has NOT called for any overthrow of the Church, you’ve just been listening to anti-Catholic/Secularist propaganda !!!

    In his interview, he quite clearly defends the orthodoxy of the Faith and the Church — and he’s focussing on the *real* problems of the Church, including in ways that would seem very familiar to a traditionalist.

    He does NOT say “let’s give communion to divorced-remarried” — he says that we have to consider them in a different light, because rejecting them harshly also means rejecting their children, husbands, wives, and maybe even their whole family.

    Overall, the interview is a deep reflection on the very nature of Catholic Christianity, as taught to us in Scripture, and an expression of both love for our Church, and dismay at its current state of affairs.

    There is nothing “protestant” in the interview.

  • JabbaPapa

     His comment was an answer to the direct question “how do you see the situation of the Church?”

    What was he supposed to reply ? That our churches are all filled to the brim with devout worshippers and that most people are practicing Catholics ?

  • Chric

    I must also dd that Carlo Matini was made a Cardinal by the late John Paul II as he deemed Martini too liberal to be the next Superior General of the Jesuit Order. He was the clear favorite among the all the candidates for the post but the wisdom of John Paul II led to his being made a Cardinal and eventual exile to Milan as its next Archbishop. There was protest but John Paul II held firm. I dread to think the Jesuit Order would take if he had been made a Superior General.

  • Cathyafrica

     Rowan, did you ever traveled out of your country? Did you ever witnessed the church led by  Cardinal Martini? If you did not, please avoid comments that show little knowledge. The Archdiocese of Milan is the most alive, and young church in the world, THANKS TO CARDINAL MARTINI who made as St. Paul said in the 1st letter to the Corinthians: To the weak, I made myself weak, to win the weak. I accommodated myself
    to people in all kinds of different situations, so that by all possible
    means I might bring some to salvation.’

     He was for us people of the Archdiocese of Milan, a prophet, a teacher, a friend and a Saint. May his prophecy become true one day and he may pray for us sinners and for the sins of the Church so that the Church of God may become Holy and Pure. Please respect our Cardinal in his trip to the Father. He will be counted among the Saints…………………. a point of envy for many. May God Bless you dear Rowan

  • Cathyafrica

     MIchael Davis, I challenge you. Do you  know to read statistics? the Archdiocese of Milan is the first in priests and vocations. How comes? Yes, Martini was a pain in the neck for those reflected in the Gospel of today:’ So the
     Pharisees and scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?’

    6 He answered, ‘How rightly Isaiah prophesied
    about you hypocrites in the passage of scripture: This people honours
    me only with lip-service, while their hearts are far from me.’ These are the Words of Jesus! neither mine, nor of Martini’s. Michael read Mark 7.

  • Parasum

    Mgr. Martini (as he then was) is one of the editors of the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament – an example of the kind of ecumenical co-operation that builds up the Church rather than harming it.  He didn’t confine himself to scholarly stuff either – one of his later contributions to the study of the New Testament was a preface to a five- language pocket edition of St.Luke’s Gospel published by the Paulist Fathers.  

    STM the Church would be really blessed to have more churchmen like him.

  • Nat_ons

    A great scholar and truly admirable pastor, even in his ‘controversial’ or modernist ideology he sought only to witness Christ Jesus – and him completely. It is this open and commonly shared access to Jesus Christ that he and most sincere ‘Post-Vatican II’ orthodox Catholics sought to advance – an idea long advocated by the popes but often hampered by the manner in which liturgy was used. Hence his views on resorting the use of the beautiful, and much loved Latin forms of the liturgy – whether ancient or modern; what many ‘traditionalists’ fail to address or even recognise, unfortunately, is that a fully Christ-centred popular devotion in the liturgy was not the norm .. and Latin use – even in ‘Latin’ countries – tended unintentionally to make the firmly scripture-witnessing Mass (and Hours, even Benediction) a priestly affair – with the people of God attending (if at all) in their own private ways.

    Of course his means of advancing the Christ-centred devotion of the Catholic liturgies – with its Scripture unfolding message – was flawed, indeed counter-productive, but the good intention was that of implementing the teaching of the many saintly popes who have adorned the church catholic in the past two hundred years .. that of struggle to repair a genuine Catholic identity after the grave assaults of enlightenment indifferentism and political hostility (a struggle that is even now not yet complete).

    When ‘traditionalists’ – not those who merely elevate traditions for the sake of having ‘tradition’ – finally begin to address the soul-burning issues actually grappled with by the giants of modern Orthodox Catholicism .. Newman, Leo XII, Pius X, Fulton Sheen, Pius XII, John Paul II even Carlo Maria Martini  .. and our awesome Benedict XVI .. among so many others, then the Spirit who sought to move men’s hearts and minds at the Second Vatican Council may actually be listened to: the Holy Ghost, our Paraclete from the Father in Christ = God.

    Sadly, allowing the Holy Spirit of God to lead our human flesh is a terrifying idea as well as a daunting process – filled as it is with horror of conflating the fleshly whim with his spiritual light; hippy, hippy shake, I-Get-Around, Clown Masses, Gay-Is-The-Word activism, Feminist Liberation, are simply witnesses to how the flesh can smother the Spirit; however, following the divine witness of a well sung Low Mass, with an actively participating attention, by priest and people, is what the Holy Ghost asked for .. even in the vernacular .. we still have not quite achieved it in action (and being entangled in asserting the Mass of John XIII, Pius XII, Pius X, or Pius V in Latin can only distract from the main purpose of that divine will – shown at Trent, Vatican I and Vatican II, no matter how beautiful and enlivening and orthodox they can be in intention). 

  • O’hEarain

    Jesus answered, ‘It was of you hypocrites that Isaiah so rightly prophesied in this passage of scripture:
    This people honours me only with lip-service, while their hearts are far from me.The worship they offer me is worthless,the doctrines they teach are only human regulations.”

  • Alan

    Excellent post.  My daughter recently visited Milan,and was amazed at the health of the Church there, with huge Mass attendances and enthusiasm.  Maybe the late great Cardinal had nothing to do with that, but I somehow doubt it.

  • GulliverUK

    Rowan, he was truly a god then, or a man with the loudest voice on the planet.  I mean, if his views echoed across the planet for every person to hear.  I’d never heard of him (not that surprising) but I’ve heard of Cardinal O’Brien and Bishop Nichols.

    The churches are emptying because our them, not because Martini was more in line to the Golden rules of Jesus than the driven ideology and dogmatic social conservatism of evangelical and traditionalist elements who currently have power over all that is said.  The majority of Christians are not Pauline wannabes or fundamentalist and literalistic-minded devotees, but people with compassion, understanding, acceptance of others, a belief in fair-mindedness and equality, those who want a church of good deeds as well as good words, profound inspiration and truth.  When little or none of this is found to be true people turn away.  In the modern world you don’t have a powerful voice, it’s lost in the thousands of simultaneous voices online and out there giving alternative reasoning and belief to your own.

    I’ll give you an example of why people turn from things.  If you’re a negative person, always grumbling about others, slighting them, saying ugly things, others around you will gravitate elsewhere, to avoid your … downness, because they don’t want it bringing them down.  Another example is where you so obviously lie.  The child abuse scandal was covered up.  It’s fair to say that some will see covering it up  almost as criminal as the acts of abuse.  Suffering was prolonged, no closure could be had.  Thus far $2.4 billion has been paid out in settlements, and when it’s finally all over it wouldn’t be unwise to allow for double that.  Yet another example is hating on others, especially when the general public can not only see the harm this does, but thoroughally disapprove of it.  In a poll 70% of Catholics poll said they believed messages from the pulpit contributed to LGBT suicides.

    When I see the EDL or BNP, I turn away.  When I see grotesque organisations like Order 777, I turn away, when I see bigots and homophobes, I turn away, and when I see an organised religious trying to circumvent democracy, trying discriminate and deny people the same civil rights, I wonder why they never read the Bible and asked what would Jesus do, and where is the tale of the Good Samaritan.  

    I went to Methodist Sunday school, and the C.S.S.M. for a few weeks each summer.  I guess that makes me a heretic.  But if nothing else they did impress the Golden Rule and the tale of the Good Samaritan, and how to treat others as you want to be treated.

    The article I just read in the Guardian;

    He sounded as though he knew what some of the problem were and wanted for the Church hierarchy to catch up with the followers.  I would like that too.  How different things would have been if he had been the next Pope.

  • O’hEarain

    Well said – as I understand it, Jesus harshest words were directed against religious bigots

  • Cathyafrica

     Alan, Cardinal Martini has a lot to do with it. I am one of his Spiritual Daughter and I am a living witness.

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    ” … the Archdiocese of Milan is the first in priests …”

    What kind of priests though? Orthodox Catholics? I doubt it.

  • Winjanefish

    An amazing principled, courageous figure of deep faith and love for his Lord and Church, reflected in his love for the outcast, those harshly judged by human judgement in God’s name but without His loving compassion, the under valued and rejected.  May he rest in Peace and rise in Glory. Amen

  • Alexander VI

    If Martini was as bad as you allege then surely Pope Benedict and JP2  were grossly negligent in failing to take disciplinary action against him? 

  • Dorotheus

    Catholics who are trying to be faithful to God
    while honestly addressing the real issues and questions that faith inevitably
    faces, and who see the desire of some to return to the supposed certainties of
    past ages as a gesture of defeat, will greatly lament the passing of Cardinal
    Martini, just as they lament the way the inspiring vision of Vatican II to
    renew the Church is being betrayed and undermined by the current fearful
    leadership. Now that the latter has made sure it has a firm grip on the
    structures of power in the Church and only appoints like-minded reactionary
    clones to every vacant seat, the death of Martini seems like the end of an era.
    Ahead can only be seen a further descent into rigid dogmatism, exclusive sectarian
    triumphalism, rampant clericalism, superstition, myopic zeal and obsession with
    law, more shoddy Latin or equally shoddy Latinate pseudo-English in the
    liturgy, parading of relics, proud prelates dressed up like medieval potentates
    and all the sorry ludicrous paraphernalia. Carlo Maria, rest in peace. God,
    have mercy on the Roman Catholic Church.

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    Of course. In the same way as they have done very little or nothing to correct or get rid of a whole raft of appalling Bishops, Archbishops, Cardinals and theologians. 

    Heard of Rembert Weakland?

    Many of these men were appointed by these two Popes! And yes, I DO include the current Holy Father. Some of his appointments have been disastrous. A list can be found on Mundabor’s blog. Just google it (and no, I am not Mundabor).

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    Another “Catholic” using the language of socialism to defend the Revolution wrought by Martina and so many others of his ilk.

    And so we have the proof of the “why”. Why the Church lies in ruins. Why Her divine foundation, purpose and end has been dropped, to be replaced by “politics”. 

    Bishop Fulton Sheen said in the mid-60’s that this ” .. would be the temptation of the Church for the next 100 years: to replace the divine with politics. And we see the beginnings of it now”.

    How right he was. Thanks Dorotheus for proving the Traditionalist’ point so well.

  • Dorotheus

    Another ‘Catholic” using the language of obscurantism to defend reaction and anti-progress, so ably and courteously countered by Cardinal Martini and others like him.
    And so we have the proof of the why. Why the Church lies in ruins. Why her divine foundation, purpose and end have been dropped, to be replaced by reactionary dogmatism.
    Someone ought to have said in the 1960s that it would be the temptation of the Church for the next 100 years to shrink timidly away from the challenges of its faith and replace the divine with the external forms of mere religion. And we see that in full flow now.  
    How right he would have been. Thanks to Aelfrid for proving the obvious so well.

  • Dr.Cajetan Coelho

    Respectful farewell to Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini. May the Giver of life grant him eternal bliss.

  • JabbaPapa

    Modernism is not the answer, nor is your thinly-veiled Protestantism.

  • JabbaPapa

    Have you never attended Mass in the Duomo ?

    You’re just dreaming these doubts out of your own imagination.

  • gabriel_syme

    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.

    Another of the ageing modernist old-guard passing on?

  • Dorotheus

    Who said anything about Modernism? I’m talking about God, as Cardinal Martini was. And what has it got to do with Protestantism if one wants the Catholic Church to be itself, the body of Christ in the truest sense? Please don’t just parrot boo-words!

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    We’ll keep the Red Flag flying there!!!

    I feel ill. But well done at packing so much Marxist jargon into so few sentences: that must take practice!