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Carlo Maria Martini

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Title: Carlo Maria Martini  
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Subject: Dionigi Tettamanzi, Carlo Gnocchi, Novum Testamentum Graece, Giovanni Colombo, Papabile
Collection: 1927 Births, 2012 Deaths, 20Th-Century Jesuits, 20Th-Century Roman Catholic Archbishops, 21St-Century Roman Catholic Archbishops, Archbishops of Milan, Burials at Milan Cathedral, Cardinals Created by Pope John Paul II, Deaths from Parkinson's Disease, Homosexuality and Catholicism, Italian Biblical Scholars, Italian Cardinals, Italian Jesuits, Italian Roman Catholic Theologians, Jesuit Archbishops, Jesuit Cardinals, Jesuit Theologians, Members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, New Testament Scholars, Ordination of Women, Our Lady of La Salette, People from the Province of Turin, Pontifical Biblical Institute Alumni, Pontifical Gregorian University Alumni, Roman Catholic Biblical Scholars
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Carlo Maria Martini

His Eminence
Carlo Maria Martini, S.J.
Cardinal, Archbishop of Milan
Church Catholic Church
See Milan
Installed 6 January 1980
Term ended 11 July 2002
Predecessor Giovanni Colombo
Successor Dionigi Tettamanzi
Other posts Cardinal-Priest of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere
Ordination 13 July 1952
by Maurilio Fossati
Consecration 6 January 1980
by John Paul II
Created Cardinal 2 February 1983
by John Paul II
Rank Cardinal-Priest
Personal details
Born (1927-02-15)15 February 1927
Orbassano, Kingdom of Italy
Died 31 August 2012(2012-08-31) (aged 85)
Gallarate, Italy
Buried Cathedral of Milan, Italy
Nationality Italian
Previous post Rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University (1969-1978)
Coat of arms }

Carlo Maria Martini, S.J., (15 February 1927 – 31 August 2012) was an Italian Jesuit and cardinal of the Catholic Church. He was Archbishop of Milan from 1980 to 2002 and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1983. A towering intellectual figure of the Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Martini was the liberal contender for the Papacy in the 2005 conclave, following the death of Pope John Paul II. According to highly placed Vatican sources, Martini received more votes in the first round than Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the conservative candidate: 40 to 38. Ratzinger ended up with more votes in subsequent rounds and was elected Pope Benedict XVI.

Martini entered the Society of Jesus in 1944 and was ordained a priest in 1952. His appointment as Archbishop of Milan in 1980 was an unusual circumstance, as Jesuits are not traditionally named bishops. He was on the liberal wing of the church hierarchy. Suffering from a rare form of Parkinson's Disease, he retired as Archbishop in 2002 and moved to the Pontifical Institute in Jerusalem. He died at the Jesuit Aloisianum College in Gallarate near Milan.

Hours after his death, the Italian daily Corriere della Sera printed his final interview in which he described the Church as "200 years out of date." "Our culture has aged, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up. The Church must admit its mistakes and begin a radical change, starting from the Pope and the bishops. The pedophilia scandals oblige us to take a journey of transformation."[1][2][3]


  • Early life and education 1
  • Academic career 2
    • Ordination and cardinalate 2.1
  • Death and funeral 3
  • Views 4
    • Dominus Iesus 4.1
    • Contraception 4.2
    • Beginning of human life 4.3
    • Right to refuse treatments 4.4
    • Collegiality of bishops 4.5
    • Role of women in the Church 4.6
    • Sacramentum caritatis 4.7
    • Social work 4.8
    • Catholic schools 4.9
    • Same-sex unions 4.10
  • Bibliography 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early life and education

Carlo Maria Martini was born 15 February 1927 in Orbassano in the Province of Turin, Piedmont, to Leonardo, an engineer, and Olga (née Maggia) Martini. He was baptised on the following 22 February. He was educated at Istituto Sociale, a school run by Jesuits in Turin. He entered the Society of Jesus on 25 September 1944 and was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Maurilio Fossati on 13 July 1952. Martini completed his studies in philosophy at the Jesuits' House of Studies in Gallarate, in the province of Milan, and theology at the faculty of theology in Chieri.

In 1958, Martini was awarded his doctorate in fundamental theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, with a thesis exploring the problems of the Resurrection accounts. After some years of teaching at the faculty of Chieri, he returned to Rome and earned another doctorate in Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, graduating summa cum laude, with a thesis on a group of codices of the Gospel of Luke.

Academic career

After completing his studies, Martini quickly pursued a successful academic career. In 1962, he was given the Chair of Textual Criticism at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, a specialist institute of the Gregorian, and became its rector in 1969. In 1978, under Pope Paul VI, he was elected the Pontifical Gregorian University's rector magnificus, serving in this post from 1969 to 1978, after which he was nominated chancellor of the Pontifical Gregorian University. Throughout these years, he edited a number of scholarly works. Martini became active in the scientific field by publishing various books and articles. Furthermore he received the honour of being the only Catholic member of the ecumenical committee that prepared the new Greek edition of the New Testament, the Novum Testamentum Graece. Martini is remembered for his books on spiritual exercises which have added a renewed style to the original Ignatian model.

Ordination and cardinalate

On 29 December 1979, Pope John Paul II appointed Martini as Archbishop of Milan, receiving his Episcopal Consecration from the Pope himself the following 6 January, with Archbishop Eduardo Martínez Somalo and Bishop Ferdinando Maggioni serving as co-consecrators. Thus his first diocesan appointment was to one of the largest and most prominent sees. In the consistory of 2 February 1983, he was assigned the title of Cardinal-Priest of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere. The motto he chose for his coat of arms is translated as "“For the love of truth, dare to choose adverse situations".

Martini served as Relator of the 6th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 1983. Martini later served as President of the European Bishops' Conference between 1987 and 1993.

In 1996, he was presented with an honorary doctorate from the Russian Academy of Sciences. In Spain in October 2000, he was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Social Sciences. Martini was admitted as a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in November 2000.

Cardinal Martini in 1992

In 2002, Martini reached the Catholic Church's mandatory retirement age of 75 and was succeeded in Milan by Buenos Aires, and quickly withdrew his candidacy.[5] Upon reaching the age of 80 on 15 February 2007, Martini lost his right to vote in future conclaves.

After his retirement, Martini moved to the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Jerusalem to continue his work as a biblical scholar. He returned to Milan in 2008 where he spent his final years in a Jesuit house.

Death and funeral

Martini died in Gallarate on 31 August 2012. According to an online Zenit news statement about his death, Pope Benedict XVI, in his formal message of condolence sent by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, praised Martini's strength during his struggle with Parkinson's, his long service as Archbishop of Milan and his work as a scholar of the Bible.[6] The Mayor of Milan, Giuliano Pisapia led the tributes by saying, "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."[7]

More than 150,000 people passed before Martini's casket in the metropolitan cathedral of Milan before the Requiem Mass, following the Ambrosian rite, on 3 September.[8] At the beginning of the ceremony, the representative of Pope Benedict, Angelo Cardinal Comastri, vicar general of the Vatican City, read a message.[9][10] Cardinal Scola presided over the concelebrated Mass and delivered the homily. At the end of the Mass, Cardinal Tettamanzi read his remembrance. Concelebrating with Cardinal Scola were Cardinals Comastri, Tettamanzi, Bagnasco, Piovanelli, Romeo and Ravasi. Also present were the sister of Martini, Maris, his niece Giulia and his nephew Giovanni. In attendance were Father Adolfo Nicolás SJ, superior general of the Society of Jesus, and representatives of other Christian denominations and the Jewish and Muslim communities. The Italian government was represented by Prime Minister Mario Monti and his wife.[11]

In a private ceremony Martini was then buried in an empty tomb on the left side of the cathedral facing the main altar.


Often considered to be one of the more liberal cardinals, Martini achieved widespread notice for his writings. On occasion Martini's views proved to be controversial, thus bringing him comparatively large amounts of media coverage. In the final interview he gave, shortly before his death, he urged major reforms to the Catholic Church, calling it "200 years out of date" and arguing that, "Our culture has aged, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up, our rituals and our cassocks are pompous".[7]

Martini was known to be "progressive" on matters concerning human relationships, the possible ordination of women to the diaconate and some bioethical questions, notably contraceptive use in certain more complex situations.[12]

Dominus Iesus

In 2000, he criticized Dominus Iesus, a declaration by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that the Catholic Church is the sole true Church of Christ, and described the document as "theologically rather dense, peppered with quotations, and not easy to grasp".[13]


In April 2006, in response to a very specific question from physician and politician transplant centre of the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Martini opined that in certain cases, the usage of condoms might be allowable stating, "The use of condoms can, in certain situations, be a lesser evil".[14] He stressed the particular case of married couples where one has HIV or AIDS.[15] But he quickly noted that it's one thing the principle of the lesser evil in such cases, and quite another the subject who has to convey those things publicly, thus it is not up to the Church authorities to support condom use publicly, because of "the risk of promoting an irresponsible attitude". The Church is more likely to support other morally sustainable means, such as abstinence.[16] On another occasion, the Cardinal stated that "I believe the Church's teaching has not been expressed so well... I am confident we will find some formula to state things better, so that the problem is better understood and more adapted to reality," earning him a reputation for having a more liberal stance toward contraception.[17]

Beginning of human life

Martini's position on the start of a distinct human life during the fertilization of oocytes was rebuked by certain Vatican officials.[18]

Right to refuse treatments

Cardinal Martini, speaking about the right to die debate, said that "terminally ill patients should be given the right to refuse treatments and that the doctors who assist them should be protected by law."[19] It is traditional Catholic moral teaching that one is morally bound to apply "ordinary" treatments, but not "extraordinary" treatments.[20][21] The distinction was the basis of the declaration by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1980 that, "when inevitable death is imminent in spite of the means used, it is permitted in conscience to take the decision to refuse forms of treatment that would only secure a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life, so long as the normal care due to the sick person in similar cases is not interrupted."[22] The Catechism of the Catholic Church also states: "Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate".[23] Martini, in fact, refused medical treatment as his illness advanced.

Collegiality of bishops

Martini called for greater collegiality in the governance of the Church and urged continued reflection on the structure and exercise of ecclesiastical authority.[24]

Role of women in the Church

Martini demonstrated a desire for further theological enquiry on issues relating to human sexuality and the role of women in the Church and expressed support for the ordination of female deacons.[25]

Sacramentum caritatis

In March 2007, some advocates of gay rights interpreted him as openly criticising the attitude of the Church authorities. While speaking at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem to a congregation of over 1,300 visitors, he remarked that "The Church does not give orders." Martini stated that "It is necessary to listen to others, and when speaking to use terms that they understand." These remarks came days after Pope Benedict XVI published the 140-page apostolic exhortation Sacramentum caritatis, a document giving the conclusions of the 2005 Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which those critics interpreted this document as an attempt to influence Catholic politicians, particularly when in 2007 the Italian government was unsuccessfully trying to pass legislation offering legal recognition of same-sex unions.[26]

Social work

Furthermore, he promoted combating social ills, often calling for greater action to be taken in assisting socially underprivileged. Martini wished that the Church rekindle a "burning fire in the heart" of men and women today.

Catholic schools

Martini was a stringent supporter of Catholic schools and many times he spoke in favour of state contribution to Catholic schools. He said that one hour a week of teaching of Catholic religion in the Italian high school was not enough and the time dedicated to religious teaching in the school had to be increased.

Same-sex unions

In his book Credere e conoscere, published shortly before his death, Martini set out his disagreement with the Catholic teaching against homosexual civil unions. "I disagree with the positions of those in the Church, that take issue with civil unions", he wrote. "It is not bad, instead of casual sex between men, that two people have a certain stability" and that the "state could recognize them." Although he stated his belief that "the homosexual couple, as such, can never be totally equated to a marriage", he also said that he could understand (although not necessarily approve of) gay pride parades when they support the need for self-affirmation.[27][28]



  1. ^ L'ADDIO A MARTINI, "Chiesa indietro di 200 anni", L’ultima intervista: "Perché non si scuote, perché abbiamo paura?" , 1 settembre 2012Corriere della Sera
  2. ^ Translated final interview with Martini , 4 September 2012National Catholic Reporter (NCR)
  3. ^ Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, his final interview, and a damning critique that has rocked the Catholic Church , 3 September 2012The Independent
  4. ^ Wakin, Daniel J. (18 April 2005). "Cardinals Gather Today in Secret to Elect the Next Pope". New York Times. Retrieved 5 September 2012. 
  5. ^ Catholic News Service. Article based on diary says German cardinal became pope with 84 votes 23 September 2005
  6. ^ Benedict XVI Sends Condolences at Death of Cardinal Martini Zenit
  7. ^ a b Michael Day, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, his final interview, and a damning critique that has rocked the Catholic Church, Monday 3 September 2012, The Independent
  8. ^ "Italy hails cardinal who wanted church to change". Boston Globe. 3 September 2012. Retrieved 5 September 2012. 
  9. ^ L'Osservatore Romano, A man of God who loved the Word and served the Church
  10. ^ Pope's final salute to Cardinal Martini: He was a man of God
  11. ^ The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church – Additions 2012
  12. ^ Dying cardinal: Church '200 years out of date'
  13. ^ Dominus Iesus: An Ecclesiological Critique
  14. ^ Time Magazine, 1 May 2006.
  15. ^ BBC. Cardinal backs limited condom use 21 April 2006.
  16. ^ L'Espresso. When Does Life Begin? Cardinal Martini Replies 20 May 2006
  17. ^ BBC. Profile: Cardinal Carlo Martini 19 April 2005.
  18. ^ L'Espresso. Carlo Maria Martini’s "Day After" 20 May 2006
  19. ^ National Catholic Reporter. The schism that hasn't been between Ratzinger and Martini 20 February 2007
  20. ^ (Our Sunday Visitor Publishing 1999 ISBN 9780879739317), p. 311Catholic Moral TraditionDavid Bohr,
  21. ^ (Georgetown University Press 2006 ISBN 9781589011120), p. 3Medical Care at the End of LifeDavid F. Kelly,
  22. ^ , 5 May 1980Iura et bonaDeclaration on euthanasia
  23. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2278
  24. ^ Catholic World News. Cardinal Martini repeats call for decentralized Church government 7 April 2004
  25. ^ Gaia Pianigani, Cardinal Carlo Martini, Papal Contender, Dies at 85, 31 August 2012, The New York Times.
  26. ^ PinkNews. Cardinal says Pope should stop giving orders 16 March 2007.
  27. ^ Martini and Marino, Credere e conoscere, 2012;
  28. ^ Terence Weldon, Cardinal Martini, on Gay Parnterships, 29 March 2012, Queering The Church.

External links

  • CV from the Archdiocese of Milan website (Italian only)
  • Biography from the Vatican News Service
  • The Pontifical Biblical Institute where Martini taught
  • Biography from Catholic Pages
  • BBC article on Martini
  • Profile on the Catholic Hierarchy website
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Giovanni Colombo
Archbishop of Milan
29 December 1979 – 11 July 2002
Succeeded by
Dionigi Tettamanzi
Title last held by
John Patrick Cody
Cardinal-Priest of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere
2 February 1983 – 31 August 2012
Succeeded by
Gualtiero Bassetti
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