Cardinal Martini, biblical scholar, dies at 85

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini

September 10, 2012

Italian Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a renowned biblical scholar and former archbishop of Milan, died Aug. 31 at the age of 85 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Pope Benedict met privately with the cardinal during a visit to Milan in June, and was informed of his ailing health Aug. 30, the Vatican press office said.

In a telegram to Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan, Pope Benedict praised Martini’s generous service to the Gospel and the Church and his “intense apostolic work” as a Jesuit, a professor and “authoritative biblicist.”

As archbishop of Milan, the pope said, Martini helped open for the Church community “the treasures of the sacred Scriptures.”

The cardinal was a prolific author whose books were best-sellers 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.

After Pope Benedict eased restrictions on the celebration of the pre-Vatican II liturgy in 2007, 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 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.