Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo, retired camerlengo, dies at 94

Hannah Brockhaus   By Hannah Brockhaus for CNA

Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo died Aug. 10 in Rome at the age of 94. / press.vatican.va

Vatican City, Aug 10, 2021 / 08:15 am (CNA).

Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo, a former camerlengo of the Catholic Church, has died at his home in Rome.

The 94-year-old Martínez suffered a heart attack last month. He had a history of cardiovascular disease and had undergone a triple bypass surgery in 2003, according to Spanish magazine Vida Nueva.

Originally from the Rioja province of Spain, Martínez managed the administration of the Holy See as camerlengo between the death of St. Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

His duties also included overseeing the preparations for the papal conclave.

The cardinal had a long career in the Roman Curia under the papacy of John Paul II, whom he joined on his many trips in Italy and abroad.

Martínez’s death on the morning of Aug. 10 was confirmed to Spanish news agency Europa Press by the Diocese of Calahorra y La Calzada-Logroño.

The diocese said the cardinal’s body will be brought to his hometown of Baños de Río Tobía in Spain for his funeral Mass.

“We convey our sincere condolences to all his dear family, and we commend the good and faithful servant who dedicated his entire life to the service of God and the Church. Rest in peace,” the diocese wrote on Twitter.

St. Pope John Paul II made Martínez a cardinal in June 1988, after he served as sostituto, or the second-in-command, in the Secretariat of State for nine years.

Martínez was prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments from 1988 to 1992, before being named camerlengo, a position he held from 1993 to 2007.

The cardinal resigned as camerlengo on his 80th birthday, March 31, 2007. Pope Benedict XVI wrote to him several days later, recalling “the long and dedicated service that closely bound your priestly and episcopal ministry to the Apostolic See.”

“I would like to express to you my warm gratitude for the diligence, competence and love with which you have carried out this delicate task at the service of the Holy See and of the universal Church,” Benedict wrote.

He said: “As your high office as Camerlengo and your other important offices in the various Dicasteries of the Roman Curia come to an end, I am sure that the memory of all the good you have done will be a comfort to you and a cause of thanksgiving and praise to the Lord.”

Martínez also served as prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life from 1992 until 2004.

As a cardinal, he presided over two assemblies of the Synod of Bishops as president delegate: the first special assembly for Europe in 1991 and the ninth general assembly on consecrated life in 1994.

The Spaniard first came to Rome as a seminarian to study at the Pontifical Spanish College and the Pontifical Gregorian University, where he received a licentiate in theology and canon law.

He was ordained a priest in 1950 in his home diocese before being sent to Rome again to attend the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, a training college for priests serving in the Holy See’s diplomatic corps and the Secretariat of State.

Martínez also received a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Lateran University.

He worked in the Secretariat of State from 1956 until 1970, when he spent a few months as counselor of the apostolic delegation to Great Britain.

In October 1970 he returned to Rome in the role of assessor of the Secretariat of State. He was apostolic nuncio in Colombia from 1974 to 1979.


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