By: Dan Bergin
Hours after Milan’s former Archbishop, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, died on Friday at the age of 85, the leading daily paper Corriere della Sera printed his final interview given four weeks earlier, in which he said the Catholic Church is “200 years out of date”.“Our culture has aged, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up, our rituals and our cassocks are pompous,” the Cardinal said. “The Church must admit its mistakes and begin a radical change, starting from the Pope and the bishops. The paedophilia scandals oblige us to take a journey of transformation.”
“In wealthy Europe and America the Church is tired”, he said. “In the Church of today I see so much ash covering the fire that I often feel overcome by a sense of powerlessness.”
“Why don’t we rouse ourselves? Are we afraid?”
Cardinal Martini became the head of Italy’s largest diocese in 1979 at the height of the ‘years of lead’ when Italy, particularly the industrial north, was under siege from leftwing Red Brigades urban guerrillas. He immediately established respect among trade unionists and leftwingers by celebrating Mass among workers at large factories and also frequently visited the city’s jail where he built relations with prisoners including incarcerated guerrillas.
He negotiated the handover of a cache of Red Brigades weapons to police due to his contacts with prisoners.
After retiring as archbishop because of his health in 2002, he spent six years in Jerusalem to devote himself to his studies.
The World Jewish Congress issued a statement of sorrow at his death and said he had played an important role in fostering Catholic-Jewish relations.
Milan’s Jewish community has proposed naming a park next to the city’s main synagogue after Martini.
Thousands came to pay their last respects to the Cardinal as his body lay in state in Milan Cathedral before his funeral on Monday. The left-wing Mayor of Milan, Giuliano Pisapia, who recently angered church authorities by recognising gay couples and providing them with the same rights the city gives married couples, led the tributes to the dead Cardinal. “Difficult times require words of wisdom and hope from great men,” he said. “Carlo Maria Martini illuminated the way for the entire city, not just for part of it. For this reason, today more than ever, Milan mourns its Archbishop”.
Calling Martini “an untiring servant of the Gospel and the Church.”Pope Benedict paid tribute to his “open spirit” and dialogue with all in a message read for him at the funeral by a senior Vatican official, Cardinal Angelo Comastri.