The cardinal served the Church with 'unique expertise', Pope Francis said

Italian Cardinal Attilio Nicora, who died on April 22 at the age of 80, served the Vatican and the Catholic Church in Italy with his “unique expertise,” attention to detail and farsighted vision, Pope Francis said.

The cardinal, who earned a civil law degree before entering the seminary and a doctorate in canon law afterwards, was the former president of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See and former president of the Vatican Financial Intelligence Authority.

In a message sent on April 23 to the cardinal’s family, Pope Francis said he would be remembered with “esteem and recognition for the precious service he offered with unique expertise to the Church and Italian civil society.”

Cardinal Nicora had a long history of service to the Church, particularly in delicate affairs involving provisions of the church-state concordat in Italy. In 1987, he headed the Italian bishops’ conference committee for ecclesial goods, helping to design a highly successful tax check-off system of financing for Italian church operations.

As president of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, he oversaw the management of the Vatican’s financial holdings as well as personnel policies and decisions. St John Paul II made him a cardinal in 2003.

Born in Varese, Italy, March 16, 1937, he was ordained a priest of the Milan Archdiocese in 1964. After teaching canon law at a northern Italian seminary, he became the seminary rector, a post he held until he was named an auxiliary bishop of Milan in 1977.

He headed Caritas Italy from 1990 to 1992, when the Pope named him bishop of Verona. In 1997, he left Verona to become the top expert on legal affairs for the Italian bishops’ conference, a post he held until his Vatican appointment in 2002.

Cardinal Nicora’s death leaves the College of Cardinals with 222 members, 117 of whom are under the age of 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope.