Milan has declared a day of mourning on Monday 3 September, the day set for the funeral of its much-loved archbishop Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini who died from Parkinson’s on 31 August after many years of illness.
Martini was born in Turin in 1927, he became a Jesuit in 1944, archbishop of Milan from 1980-2002, a cardinal at the age of 57 and many looked on him as a possible pope to succeed John Paul II.
He combined a number of exceptional qualities. He was a brilliant biblical scholar, a humane archbishop able to touch those with acute sufferings such as prisoners, the unemployed, the homeless and the sick. He was a writer who could make the most complex subjects understandable, he was loved by all politicians whether from left or right, by his peers and by the media.
He could communicate his ideas in both print and on television, and at the same time he was a patient listener. He attracted the old, the suffering, the poor, the young, the academically brilliant and the well-off. He had an extensive following overseas and spent much of his early retirement studying in Jerusalem until 2008 when this became impossible because of his illness.
He was a progressive thinker, often ahead of his time, but he never ran foul of the more conservative wings of the Roman Catholic Church. He was also a foremost exponent of inter-faith dialogue as well as having a following among those who had no faith at all.
The body of Cardinal Martini will lie in Milan’s cathedral from Saturday 1 September for people to pay their respects. The cathedral will be kept open all night between Saturday and Sunday. The funeral is on Monday at 16.00 and afterwards Cardinal Martini will be buried in the cathedral in a private ceremony conducted by the present archbishop of the city Angelo Scola.