Sunday September 2, 2012
Cardinal who warned Church is '200 years behind' is mourned
MILAN: Thousands flocked to Milan Cathedral on Saturday to pay their final respects to Italian cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, who warned in an interview published posthumously that the Church was "200 years behind".
Solemn crowds looked on as pall-bearers carried to the cathedral the coffin of Martini, a former archbishop of Milan who commanded widespread respect and advocated reform on issues such as contraception and women in the Church.
"The Church has been left 200 years behind. Why doesn't it rouse itself? Are we afraid?" he asked in his last interview, conducted by a fellow Jesuit in early August and published in the Corriere della Sera newspaper on Saturday.
A hero among reform-minded Catholics, Martini never tired of his quest to modernise the staunchly traditional institution, openly questioning the Church on contentious issues such as the clerical sex-abuse scandal and divorce.
"The Church is tired. Our culture has grown old, our churches are large, our religious houses are empty... and our rites and costumes are pompous," he said.
The cardinal, who had once been tipped as a possible future pope, had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for years and died on Friday aged 85.
But his progressive stance on highly sensitive issues, which ruffled feathers in some quarters of Church despite his diplomatic and measured approach, meant his chances of being elected to Saint Peter's Chair were slim.
Martini was a realist who warned the Church it would have to become more flexible with regard to its traditional mores, or risk alienating Catholics.
"The Church has to recognise its mistakes and set off on a radical path of change, starting with the pope and the bishops," he said in his last interview, particularly in light of "the scandals of (clerical) paedophilia."
He also urged a re-think of its attitude to divorce, warning that if separated, divorced or remarried parents "feel excluded or do not feel they have the Church's support, the Church will lose future generations".
Martini was laid out on crimson velvet platform and relatives and close friends gathered to pay their respects to the man who had dreamed of a Third Vatican Council, which would revise outdated dogma and attract new faithful.
"He was a man of dialogue, a pastor who tried to knock down walls," a pilgrim who had come to say goodbye to Martini told Italy's ANSA news agency.
The city's Inter Milan football club posted a message on its website saying that Martini "leaves us hope of a world in which it is possible for different cultures, ideologies, beliefs and passions to coexist". - AFP