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Cardinal Martini, leading liberal papabile, dead at 85

August 31, 2012

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the retired Archbishop of Milan, died on August 31 of complications from Parkinson’s disease, at the age of 85.

An acclaimed Scripture scholar and urbane Catholic thinker, Cardinal Martini was the most influential liberal leader in the College of Cardinals, and for years was considered a possible successor to Pope John Paul II. That possibility faded in 1996 when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Although the Italian cardinal’s statements on controversial issues occasionally caused consternation at the Vatican, he was personally close to Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict was receiving frequent updates on Cardinal Martini’s condition in recent days, after the cardinal’s doctor announced that his patient’s disease had entered its terminal phase. In mid-August the cardinal lost the ability to take food, and declined aggressive treatment that could only have prolonged his suffering.

Born in Turin, Carlo Maria Martini was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 1952. In 1979 he was appointed Archbishop of Milan, the largest see in Europe, where he remained until his retirement in 2002. He was raised to the College of Cardinals by Pope John Paul II in 1983. After his retirement he moved to Jerusalem, where he worked at the Pontifical Biblical Institute until 2008, when he returned to Europe for medical treatment.

With the death of Cardinal Martini there are now 206 living members of the College of Cardinals, of whom 118 are under the age of 80 and thus eligible to vote in a papal election.


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