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It's not really news when a retired cardinal dies, but...

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jan 02, 2013

Like any prominent man with a wide circle of acquaintances, Pope Benedict XVI is constantly sending out short notes of congratulations, condolences, encouragement, and sympathy. Ordinarily the Vatican doesn’t bother to mention these missives. But today the press office announced that the Pope had sent a message of sympathy to a cardinal whose father died.

That’s nice, of course. But you might be asking: Why is it news? Fair question.

The Pope’s message, conveyed in a telegram, went to Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the former prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, who retired in 2010. When he stepped down, at the age of 76, his father was still alive. Now is this sounding more like a news story?

Let’s cut straight to the Vatican press announcement:

Yesterday Benedict XVI sent a telegram of condolence to Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Bishops, on the death of his father Matteo Re at the age of 104 years.[emphasis added]

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