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Cardinal Martini, biblical scholar, former archbishop of Milan, dies


Pope Benedict XVI greets Italian Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini during a private meeting at the Vatican in this May 27, 2005, file photo. Cardinal Martini, a renowned biblical scholar and former archbishop of Milan, died Aug. 31 after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. He was 85. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Italian Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a renowned biblical scholar and former archbishop of Milan, died Aug. 31 at the age of 85 after a long battle with Parkinson's disease.

Pope Benedict XVI met privately with the cardinal during a visit to Milan in June, and was informed of his ailing health Aug. 30, the Vatican press office said.

In a telegram to Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan, Pope Benedict praised Cardinal Martini's generous service to the Gospel and the church and his "intense apostolic work" as a Jesuit, a professor and "authoritative biblicist."

As archbishop of Milan, the pope said, Cardinal Martini helped open for the church community "the treasures of the sacred Scriptures." The pope prayed that God would welcome the cardinal into "the heavenly Jerusalem."

The cardinal was a prolific author whose books were best-sellers in Italy and included everything from scholarly biblical exegesis to poetry and prayer guides.

He retired as archbishop of Milan in 2002, where he was known as a strong pastor and administrator, and as a very careful, thoughtful advocate of wider discussion and dialogue on some delicate and controversial church positions.

At various times, he expressed openness to the possibility of allowing married Latin-rite priests under certain circumstances, ordaining women as deacons and allowing Communion for some divorced Catholics in subsequent marriages not approved by the church.

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