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Cardinal Martini's farewell: a scathing attack on the Church

Published just hours after his death last Friday, Cardinal Martini's last interview urges radical reforms and calls the Church "200 years out of date."

  • Michael Day
  • Italy
  • September 4, 2012
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One of Italy's most revered cardinals has stunned the Catholic Church by issuing a damning indictment of the institution from the grave, calling for its "transformation".

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his final interview, in which he attacks the Church – and by implication its current leadership – for being "200 years out of date".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."

Church insiders believe he wished for the interview to be published following his death.

Cardinal Martini, who was on the liberal wing of the church hierarchy, was once tipped to succeed John Paul II as Pope. His chances of being elected fell away when he revealed he was suffering from a rare form of Parkinson's disease and he retired as Archbishop in 2002. Instead, the ultra-conservative German cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

The body of Cardinal Martini has been laid out in Milan cathedral since noon on Saturday, with thousands of people coming to pay their last respects. His funeral will take place there this afternoon.

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".

Cardinal Martini was noted for supporting the use of condoms, at least a decade before the Vatican grudgingly accepted they might be acceptable in certain situations to prevent the transmission of HIV. He also questioned the Church's line on gay relationships and divorce – calling on it to reconsider what constituted a family in the 21st century or risk losing even more of its flock.

Conservative voices in the Church tried to repair damage caused by Cardinal Martini's criticism. Marco Tarquinio, the editor of the bishops' daily paper, L'Avvenire, accused the mainstream press of distorting the Cardinal's comments, although he did not give specific examples.

"The attempts to distort and manipulate in an anti-ecclesiastical way the Cardinal's final hours on this earth are a bitter reminder of similar actions against even the blessed John Paul II," he said.

Full Story: Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, his final interview, and a damning critique that has rocked the Catholic Church

 Source: The Independent

See also: Funeral report: Milan mourns cardinal who dared to challenge Rome
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