Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, retired Archbishop of Milan died this afternoon, Friday, 31 August 2012, after a long illness. He was 85.
In a telegram to Cardinal Angelo Scola, the current archbishop of Milan, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his own sorrow at the death of "this dear brother, who has generously served the Gospel and the Church."
Pope Benedict recalled Cardinal Martini's many years of service as "an expert teacher, an authoritative biblical scholar and a beloved Rector of both the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Pontifical Biblical Institute." The Pope praised Martini as "a wise and diligent Archbishop of the Ambrosian Diocese."
Born in Turin, Italy, in 1927, Cardinal Martini joined the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in 1944, when he was just 17 years old. He was ordained to the priesthood eight years later, in 1952.
A world-renowned biblical scholar, Martini served as Dean of the Faculty of Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, the Biblicum. In 1969 he became Rector of the Institute, a position he held until 1978 when he was called to become Rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University. As a scholar he wrote extensively scriptural topics, as well as on Ignatian Spirituality.
Pope John Paul II chose Carlo Martini to assume the office of Archbishop of Milan in 1979. Martini governed the Archdiocese, one of the largest in the world, for over twenty years.
The Director of the Holy See's Press office, Father Federico Lombardi, a fellow Jesuit, said Cardinal Martini's death "is an event that stirs great emotion well beyond the confines even of the vast Archdiocese of Milan."
Father Lombardi said: "With his words, his many writings, his innovative pastoral initiatives, [Cardinal Martini] was able to effectively witness to the Faith, and proclaim it to the people of our times."
The full text of Father Lombardi's article follows:
The death of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini is an event that stirs great emotion well beyond the confines even of the vast Archdiocese of Milan, which he governed for 22 years. It concerns a bishop that, with his words, his many writings, his innovative pastoral initiatives, was able to effectively witness to and proclaim the faith to the people of our time; earning the esteem and respect of those both near and far; inspiring so many of his brother bishops throughout the world in the exercise of their ministry.
Cardinal Martini’s formation and personality were those of a Jesuit scholar of Sacred Scripture. The Word of God was the starting point and the foundation of his approach to every aspect of reality and all of his contributions. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola were the matrix of his spirituality and spiritual pedagogy, of the continued engagement, at once direct and concrete, between the reading of the Word of God and life, of spiritual discernment and determinations in the light of the Gospel.
It was the courageous intuition of Pope John Paul II to put the spiritual and cultural wealth of the man who had been until then a scholar—the rector first of the Biblicum and then of the Gregorian University—in the service of the pastoral care of one of the largest dioceses in the world. He had a distinctive style of governing. In his last little book—Il Vescovo (“The Bishop”)—Martini wrote: “Do not think the bishop is able to effectively guide the people entrusted to him with a multitude of regulations and decrees, with prohibitions and negative judgements. Focus instead on interior formation, on a taste for and fascination with Sacred Scripture; show the positive reasons for our actions, inspired by the Gospel. One will gain so much more than one would by a rigid observance of rules and regulations.”
It is a precious heritage, to reflect upon seriously when we seek the paths of the “new evangelisation.”
Source: VIS/Vatican Radio