Italian cardinal, an interfaith leader, dies at 85

Italy’s Jewish leadership mourned the death of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, 85, who was known in part for forging closer relations between Christians and Jews.

Martini, the archbishop emeritus of Milan, died Aug. 31 in that city after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

In a statement, Renzo Gattegna, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, described Martini as a “man of culture,” a “great protagonist in inter-religious dialogue” and “a friend, a guide and a reference point.”

In New York, Martin L. Budd, chair of ADL’s National Outreach and Interfaith Committee, and Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg, ADL director of Interfaith Affairs, said in a statement: “Cardinal Martini was a great biblical scholar who devoted his life to building bridges of friendship and trust between the Catholic Church, the Jewish people and the state of Israel.” They added, “He also vigorously denounced anti-Semitism.”

In a speech in 2004, Martini said Catholics had to understand Judaism in order to understand their own faith.

Martini retired in 2002 and moved to Jerusalem. He returned to Milan in 2008 due to his failing health. — jta