Carlo Maria Martini

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Carlo Maria Martini

Archbishop Emeritus of Milan
Martini in 1992
ChurchRoman Catholic Church
Appointed29 December 1979
Installed10 February 1980
Term ended11 July 2004
PredecessorGiovanni Colombo
SuccessorDionigi Tettamanzi
Other post(s)Cardinal-Priest of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere (1983–2012)
Ordination13 July 1952
by Maurilio Fossati
Consecration6 January 1980
by Pope John Paul II
Created cardinal2 February 1983
by Pope John Paul II
Personal details
Carlo Maria Martini

(1927-02-15)15 February 1927
Died31 August 2012(2012-08-31) (aged 85)
Gallarate, Italy
BuriedCathedral of Milan, Italy
ParentsLeonardo Martini
Olga Maggia
Previous post(s)
Alma mater
MottoPro veritate adversa diligere
("For the love of truth, dare to choose adverse situations")
SignatureCarlo Maria Martini's signature
Coat of armsCarlo Maria Martini's coat of arms

Carlo Maria Martini SJ (15 February 1927 – 31 August 2012) was an Italian Jesuit, cardinal of the Catholic Church and a Biblical scholar. He was Archbishop of Milan from 1980 to 2004 and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1983. A towering intellectual figure of the Roman Catholic Church, 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.[1] He was on the liberal wing of the church hierarchy. Suffering from a rare form of Parkinson's disease, he retired as archbishop in 2004 and moved to the Pontifical Institute in Jerusalem. He died at the Jesuit Aloisianum College in Gallarate near Milan, eight years after.

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the Italian daily Corriere della Sera printed his final interview, in which he described the church as "200 years out of date", commenting: "Our culture has aged, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up.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."[2][3][4]

Early life and education[edit]

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.[5] 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 Sacred 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[edit]

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. In 1969 he was appointed rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute.[6] 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. In 1978, under Pope Paul VI, he was nominated to become the rector magnificus of the Pontifical Gregorian University, where he served until his appointment to the episcopacy.

Episcopate and cardinalate[edit]

On 29 December 1979, Pope John Paul II appointed Martini Archbishop of Milan. Martini received his episcopal consecration from John Paul the following 6 January, with Archbishop Eduardo Martínez Somalo and Bishop Ferdinando Maggioni serving as co-consecrators. 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 in 2006

Martini served as relator of the sixth General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 1983 and as President of the European Bishops' Conference between 1987 and 1993.

In 1987, he began the so-called "cathedra of non-believers" (cattedra dei non-credenti)[7] which was conceived together with the Italian philosopher Massimo Cacciari.[8][9] It was a series of public dialogues held in Milan with some gnostic or atheist scientists and intellectuals on the matters of bioethics, the social doctrine of the Church and the reasons to believe in God.[10]

In 1996, Martini 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.[11] Martini was admitted as a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in November 2000.

Martini was one of a group of like-minded prelates who met annually from 1995 to 2006 in St. Gallen, Switzerland, to discuss reforms with respect to the appointment of bishops, collegiality, bishops' conferences, the primacy of the papacy, and sexual morality; they differed among themselves, but shared the view that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was not the sort of candidate they hoped to see elected at the next conclave.[12][13]

In 2004, Martini reached the Catholic Church's mandatory retirement age and was succeeded in Milan by Dionigi Tettamanzi. At the time of the 2005 conclave, he was 78 years old and hence eligible to vote for the new Pope (being under 80). For years many "progressive" Catholics harboured hopes that he might eventually ascend to the papacy, but when John Paul II died, most commentators believed that his election was unlikely, given his liberal reputation and apparent frailty.[14] Nevertheless, according to La Stampa (an Italian newspaper), he obtained more votes than Joseph Ratzinger during the first round of the election (40 vs. 38). Conversely, an anonymous cardinal's diary stated that he never mustered more than a dozen or so votes, in contrast to another Jesuit cardinal, Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, and quickly withdrew his candidacy.[15] In his book La Chiesa brucia, Andrea Riccardi stated that Martini told him in personal conversation that he had not been in favor of the election of Bergoglio.[16] Upon reaching the age of 80 on 15 February 2007, Martini lost his right to vote in future conclaves.

In June 2012, when Pope Benedict XVI was contemplating retirement and was being urged not to retire by some of his closest confidants, Martini, suffering himself from Parkinson's, urged him to follow through on his decision to resign.[17]

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.[18]

Death and funeral[edit]

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.[19] 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."[20]

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.[21] At the beginning of the ceremony, the representative of Pope Benedict, Angelo Cardinal Comastri, vicar general of the Vatican City, read a message.[22][23] 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.[24] In a private ceremony Martini was buried in a 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".[20][25]

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.[26]

Dominus Iesus[edit]

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".[27]


In April 2006, in response to a very specific question from physician and politician Ignazio Marino, director of the transplant centre of the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Martini opined: "The use of condoms can, in certain situations, be a lesser evil."[28] He stressed the particular case of married couples where one has HIV or AIDS.[29] But he quickly noted that the principle of the lesser evil in such cases is one thing, 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.[30] 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."[31]

In the book Nighttime Conversations in Jerusalem published in 2008, two Jesuits, Georg Sporschill and Carlo Maria Martini, answered critical questions of young people about the risk of faith in a discourse. In the book-interview Cardinal Martini stated that "many people have withdrawn from the Church, and the Church from people", due to the 1968 encyclical Humanae vitae which prohibited artificial contraception. According to the cardinal, Pope John Paul II followed the path of rigorous application and for some period considered issuing a pontifical declaration under the principle of papal infallibility, concluding that "probably the pope [Benedict XVI] will not revoke the encyclical, but he might write one that would be its continuation. I am firmly convinced that the Church can point out a better way than it did with Humanae vitae. Being able to admit one's mistakes and the limitations of one's previous viewpoints is a sign of greatness of soul and of confidence. The Church would regain credibility and competence."[32][33]

Beginning of human life[edit]

Martini's position on the start of a distinct human life during the fertilization of oocytes was rebuked by certain Vatican officials.[34]

Right to refuse treatments[edit]

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."[35] It is traditional Catholic moral teaching that one is morally bound to apply "ordinary" treatments, but not "extraordinary" treatments.[36][37] 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."[38] 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".[39] Martini, in fact, refused medical treatment[specify] as his illness advanced.[citation needed]

Collegiality of bishops[edit]

Martini in 2010

Martini called for greater collegiality in the governance of the Church and urged continued reflection on the structure and exercise of ecclesiastical authority.[40]

Role of women in the Church[edit]

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.[41]

Sacramentum caritatis[edit]

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: "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. 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.[42]

Social work[edit]

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.[43]

Catholic schools[edit]

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.[citation needed]


In his book Credere e conoscere, published shortly before his death, Martini stated: "I disagree with the positions of those in the Church that take issue with civil unions ... 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.[44][45]

Portrayal in popular culture[edit]

Martini's role in the 2005 papal conclave was portrayed by Achille Brugnini in the 2019 Netflix biographical film The Two Popes.



  1. ^ "Is Pope Francis still a Jesuit?". National Catholic Reporter. 18 March 2013. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  2. ^ L'addio a Martini, "Chiesa indietro di 200 anni", L'ultima intervista: "Perché non-si scuote, perché abbiamo paura?" Corriere della Sera, 1 settembre 2012
  3. ^ Translated final interview with Martini National Catholic Reporter (NCR), 4 September 2012
  4. ^ Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, his final interview, and a damning critique that has rocked the Catholic Church The Independent, 3 September 2012
  5. ^ Pianigiani, Gaia. "Cardinal Carlo Martini, Papal Contender, Dies at 85", The New York Times, 31 August 2012
  6. ^ Shaw, Russell. "What Cardinal Martini Said, and What He Didn’t Say", The Catholic World Report, 20 September 2012
  7. ^ Gheddo, Piero (3 March 2012). "The missionary spirit of Card. Martini". AsiaNews. Archived from the original on 8 September 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  8. ^ Dal Mas, Francesco (1 September 2012). "Cacciari: "L'apertura ai laici fu un atto di responsabilità"". Avvenire (in Italian). Archived from the original on 14 June 2020.
  9. ^ "Percorsi martiniani - La cattedra dei non-credenti". Fondazione Carlo Maria Martini (in Italian). Archived from the original on 30 June 2018.
  10. ^ Spinelli, Ylenia (20 September 2013). ""Il "mio" cardinal Martini che insegnava dalla cattedra dei non-credenti"" (in Italian). Archived from the original on 14 June 2020. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  11. ^ Tecnologías, Developed with webControl CMS by Intermark. "Carlo Maria Martini - Laureates - Princess of Asturias Awards - The Princess of Asturias Foundation". The Princess of Asturias Foundation. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  12. ^ Pentin, Edward (24 September 2015). "Cardinal Danneels Admits to Being Part of 'Mafia' Club Opposed to Benedict XVI". National Catholic Register. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  13. ^ Pentin, Edward (26 September 2015). "Cardinal Danneels' Biographers Retract Comments on St. Gallen Group". National Catholic Register. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  14. ^ Wakin, Daniel J. (18 April 2005). "Cardinals Gather Today in Secret to Elect the Next Pope". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  15. ^ Catholic News Service. Article based on diary says German cardinal became pope with 84 votes 23 September 2005
  16. ^ Magister, Sandro (20 April 2021). "Francis, the Self-Contradictory Pope. Theory and Practice of a Non-Infallible Pontificate". Settimo Cielo. Archived from the original on 20 April 2021. Retrieved 20 April 2021.
  17. ^ "Martini: Benedict XVI's resignation and the 2005 Conclave". Vatican Insider. 18 July 2015. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  18. ^ Pianigiani, Gaia (31 August 2012). "Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, 85, Dies; Held Liberal Views". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  19. ^ "Benedict XVI Sends Condolences at Death of Cardinal Martini". Innovative Media, Inc. 31 August 2012. Archived from the original on 3 September 2012. Retrieved 9 February 2020.
  20. ^ a b Day, Michael (3 September 2012). "Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, his final interview, and a damning critique that has rocked the Catholic Church". The Independent. Retrieved 9 February 2020.
  21. ^ "Italy hails Cardinal Martini, who wanted church to change". Boston Globe. Associated Press. 3 September 2012. Retrieved 5 September 2012.[dead link] Alt URL
  22. ^ "A man of God who loved the Word and served the Church". L'Osservatore Romano. 4 September 2012. Retrieved 9 February 2020.[dead link]
  23. ^ Vatican Radio (3 September 2012). "Pope's final salute to Cardinal Martini: He was a man of God". Archived from the original on 5 September 2012. Retrieved 9 February 2020.
  24. ^ Miranda, Salvador (September 2012). "The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church – Additions 2012". Florida International University. Archived from the original on 11 December 2016. Retrieved 9 February 2020.
  25. ^ "Cardinal Carlo Martini Criticized Church Soon Before Death". The New York Times. Reuters. 1 September 2012. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  26. ^ Reuters (9 February 2012). "Dying cardinal: Church '200 years out of date'". MSNBC. NBC News. Archived from the original on 4 September 2012. Retrieved 9 February 2020. {{cite news}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  27. ^ Dominus Iesus: An Ecclesiological Critique Archived 15 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ Time, 1 May 2006.
  29. ^ BBC. Cardinal backs limited condom use 21 April 2006.
  30. ^ L'Espresso. When Does Life Begin? Cardinal Martini Replies Archived 7 December 2006 at the Wayback Machine 20 May 2006
  31. ^ BBC. Profile: Cardinal Carlo Martini 19 April 2005.
  32. ^ Sandro Magister (3 November 2008). "Cardinal Martini's Jesus Would Never Have Written "Humanae Vitae"". L'Espresso. Rome. Archived from the original on 25 January 2020.
  33. ^ Sandro Magister (11 November 2008). "God Is Not Catholic, Cardinal's Word of Honor" (in English and Italian).
  34. ^ L'Espresso. Carlo Maria Martini's "Day After" Archived 7 December 2006 at the Wayback Machine 20 May 2006
  35. ^ National Catholic Reporter. The schism that hasn't been between Ratzinger and Martini 20 February 2007 Archived 23 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  36. ^ David Bohr, Catholic Moral Tradition (Our Sunday Visitor Publishing 1999 ISBN 9780879739317), p. 311
  37. ^ David F. Kelly, Medical Care at the End of Life (Georgetown University Press 2006 ISBN 9781589011120), p. 3
  38. ^ Declaration on euthanasia Iura et bona, 5 May 1980
  39. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2278 Archived 14 November 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  40. ^ Catholic World News. Cardinal Martini repeats call for decentralized Church government 7 April 2004
  41. ^ Gaia Pianigani, "Cardinal Carlo Martini, Papal Contender, Dies at 85", 31 August 2012, The New York Times.
  42. ^ PinkNews. Cardinal says Pope should stop giving orders 16 March 2007.
  43. ^ "Profile: Cardinal Carlo Martini". 19 April 2005. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  44. ^ Martini and Marino, Credere e conoscere, 2012;
  45. ^ Terence Weldon, Cardinal Martini, on Gay Partnerships Archived 21 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine, 29 March 2012, Queering The Church.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Archbishop of Milan
29 December 1979 – 11 July 2004
Succeeded by
Title last held by
John Patrick Cody
Cardinal-Priest of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere
2 February 1983 – 31 August 2012
Succeeded by