Church in the World
Cardinal Martini’s ‘last testament’ challenges Church after his death Robert Mickens - 8 September 2012
Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini’s final interview, which was published immediately after his death on Friday last week, aged 85, has continued to cause ripples across the ecclesiastical world and beyond because of his critical words about today’s Church.
In comments published posthumously last Saturday in the Milan daily, Corriere della Sera, the cardinal said the Church was “200 years behind the times”, weighed down by “pompous” liturgies and vestments and that it was “fearful instead of courageous”.
It emerged on Tuesday, the day after his funeral in Milan’s cathedral, that Cardinal Martini intended the interview – conducted on 8 August – to be included in his final testament. “The idea was that the text would be part of his testamentary legacy,” said Federica Radice Fossati Confalonieri, a close friend of the cardinal who helped facilitate the final interview. “Fr Damiano [Modena SJ, the late cardinal’s assistant] had already given it to the executor,” she said in an article in Corriere della Sera.
Ms Radice, a mother of three children, said the late cardinal and biblical scholar offered the critical remarks as an act of love towards the Church. She said the interview was actually a “conversation” between Cardinal Martini and Fr Georg Sporschill, an Austrian Jesuit confrère with whom he published a book some years ago. “We thought we would talk for about 10 minutes and we went on for two hours,” she said. “Fr Sporschill in German, the cardinal in Italian, and I – a lay woman – was translating and found myself witnessing a dialogue between two great Jesuits,” she said. Ms Radice last visited the dying cardinal on 23 August when she learnt that Fr Modena had given the interview to the executor of the cardinal’s estate as his testament.
Vatican media, including L’Osservatore Romano, downplayed or ignored the interview. And at the cardinal’s funeral on Monday the current Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Angelo Scola, appeared to reject the idea that he left it as a written testament. “Cardinal Martini did not leave us a spiritual testament, in the strict sense of the word,” he said. “His legacy is his entire life and Magisterium.”
Most of Italy’s newspapers, television stations and other media gave generous coverage to Martini’s death and legacy. And more than 200,000 people reportedly queued between last Saturday evening and Monday morning to file past his body as it lay in state in Milan’s Gothic cathedral. People from all walks of life paid tribute to the man who served as Milan’s archbishop from 1979 to 2002.
Pope Benedict XVI sent Cardinal Angelo Comastri, vicar for Vatican City State, to deliver his message at the funeral. “He was a man of God who not only studied Sacred Scripture, but loved it intensely and made it the light of his life so that everything would be ad maiorem Dei gloriam, for the greater glory of God,” the Pope wrote. A dozen cardinals concelebrated, including Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council of Culture and a former Milan auxiliary bishop. Forty other bishops and hundreds of priests also participated, as did Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and many Italian politicians.
The assembly of some 6,000 people inside the cathedral (and more than 10,000 outside) enthusiastically applauded the retired Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Martini’s immediate successor, when he spoke emotionally on behalf of “all the people” of the Milan archdiocese at the end of the Mass. “We loved you!” he said. “For your smile and your words; for bowing to our fragility and for your ability to see afar; for your faith in days of joy and of sorrow; and for the artful way you listened and gave hope to everyone – to everyone!”
Cardinal Martini was entombed in a private ceremony on Monday evening under the Altar of the Cross of St Charles Borromeo to the left of the main altar in Milan’s cathedral.
He was one of the last of the early post-Vatican II generation of bishops, who brought a new air to the Church because of their embrace of the Council. It is difficult to detect any major personalities among today’s cardinals and bishops with the interior freedom and prophetic vision to take on Cardinal Martini’s mantle.
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