Cardinal Martini was a ‘prophet,’ says Vatican cardinal

CNA Staff   By CNA Staff


Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, S.J. (1927-2012). / Mafon1959 via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Milan, Italy, May 17, 2022 / 05:47 am (CNA).

Vatican Cardinal Michael Czerny on Monday described the late Italian Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini as a “prophet.”

Czerny, the prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said that the controversial Jesuit theologian anticipated recent developments in the Catholic Church.

Martini, a renowned biblical scholar, was described by the New York Times as one of the Catholic Church’s “most influential progressive thinkers” and a “possible successor to Pope John Paul II,” when the Polish pope died in 2005.

Martini, who led the Milan archdiocese from 1979 to 2002, declared in an interview shortly before his death in 2012 that “the Church is 200 years behind the times.”

Speaking in Milan on May 16, Cardinal Czerny said: “Many already appreciated him while he was among you, not without misunderstandings, uncertainties, and opposition.”

“Now we all understand him better, recognizing how his visions and the priorities of his pastoral governance — I would also like to say his style of listening, praying, and living — anticipated paths that finally involve the universal Church.”

Cardinal Michael Czerny has been appointed as the new prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. Pablo Esparza/CNA.
Cardinal Michael Czerny has been appointed as the new prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. Pablo Esparza/CNA.

Czerny’s remarks were reported by Vatican News, the Holy See’s online news portal, which said that the Canadian Jesuit spoke at the launch of the sixth volume of Martini’s complete works.

The book is called “Farsi prossimo” (“Draw near”), the title of a pastoral letter Martini wrote to Milan’s Catholics. The letter led to a diocesan convention in 1986, which Czerny linked to the global synodal process launched by Pope Francis.

Pope Francis has referred to Martini several times since his election in 2013.

In a 2013 address to the Carlo Maria Martini Foundation, he described the cardinal as “a prophet of peace” and “a father in the Church, not only for his diocese, but for countless people.”

The pope recalled Martini’s final interview in a speech to the Roman Curia in 2019.

He said: “Cardinal Martini, in his last interview, a few days before his death, said something that should make us think: ‘The Church is 200 years behind the times. Why is she not shaken up? Are we afraid? Fear, instead of courage? Yet faith is the Church’s foundation. Faith, confidence, courage… Only love conquers weariness.’”

In his speech in Milan, Cardinal Czerny said that Martini “did what the [Second Vatican] Council asked of him, an event that in his youth, as in Pope Francis’, represented an evangelical springtime.”

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  1. “The Martini Curve should indeed make us think. I thought about it at the time and ended up with questions rather than answers. What, precisely, was the Church two hundred years behind? A western culture come unglued from the deep truths of the human condition? A culture that celebrates the imperial autonomous Self? A culture that detaches sex from love and responsibility? A culture that breeds a politics of immediate gratification and inter-generational irresponsibility? Why on earth would the Church want to catch up with that? Call me a dullard, but try as I might to adjust my thinking, I’m afraid that’s what I still think about the allegation that Catholicism’s contemporary failures result from our being stuck in a rut behind the curve of history” (George Weigel Denver Catholic 1.8. 2020).
    Weigel’s instincts were correct. Cardinal Carlo Martini SJ was ahead of his time [and space] envisioning a Church unlike anything that preceded. Archbishop Bergoglio considered Martini his mentor. What Martini envisioned for a Church 200 years behind Francis is achieving in hypersonic transit.
    When previously held eternal truth [tightly held by the unfavorably impressed], revealed once and forever by the Son of God suddenly becomes as relevant as a moth eaten rug we’re reminded of the words of the Apostle, Whoever preaches a Gospel other than what you have received, be he an angel of light’ let him be anathema. Cardinal Czerny SJ doesn’t seem to see the difference.

  2. Some time ago I read Martini’s booklet meditations /retreat based on themes and reflections from David (OT King). I would use Pope Francis’ phrase incurvatus to describe the experience. My impression was, he was leading – teaching – a “turned in” spirit. I think there’s a way of dwelling too much on one’s own being and that it can happen that it ends up being guided; and Martini was one such guide.

    I am not an expert nor have I any training. Maybe it is suited to the feminine psyche but not the masculine. I suspect however that my proposed distinction would not salvage the thing for authentic spiritual direction that made one so absorbed.

    Mind you, if I had a vision or something like that I would accept that it would command my attention. But just transposing David’s religious encounters into shared “spiritual” feelings is not going to transfix me. Jolly sorry.

    My other impression of the ideas from his retreat, is, his presentation of David outside the Incarnational reality; and/or, the presentation of David as archetype of Incarnational reality. With my question why I should I have to solve that, nagging me all the way through the reading!

    Besides that Martini had strange ideas about conception and about homosexuality; which went un-redressed until he died.

  3. A Martini is two drinks away from a Montini. Both are ____________ fill-in-the-blank with the correct multiplechoice answer. The cocktail bar beckons.

  4. A couple of years ago the English and Italian and I think Spanish parts of ZENIT stopped publishing but the French and Arabic continued. ZENIT is publishing in English and Spanish once more but the Italian is still at a stall. Another problem with ZENIT is that -at least for my location,- the Google search does not return the main links; instead giving links to fb, dud lead-pages, past pages and so forth. Also going between pages, ads jump in and freeze the screen, it’s very trying. Someone should look into it and make things work well. ZENIT news is often unique plus the articles reveal the atmosphere surrounding the Curia, it is an important resource.

    I would note that there used to be SOME REALLY GOOD JOURNALISTS with ZENIT. Where have they gone?

    Today in the Arabic section there is a report of the spontaneous interview the Holy Father gave to Spotify, apparently the first week of this month. This led me to the original ZENIT report of it in the English section, July 7, that I had missed. The English page says there is a link to the audio but I can’t find it anywhere.

    ‘ In regard to the myth that the Pope escapes and goes around the streets, the Holy Father said: “It’s not true,” adding that “the one who did so was Saint John Paul II; he found a way. He liked to ski and 100 kilometers from here it’s possible to ski, and he used to do so. He went with his ski cap and covered his face and no one recognized him; he skied a while and then came back. And in the summer there is nothing here.”

    Pope Francis explained again why he changed to his present residence in Santa Marta, and added that on Sundays he eats with the Vatican’s employees. He also said that he is reading a book-interview with the late Jesuit and former Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini.

    The full interview can be heard at this link. ‘

  5. 2012, Robert McClory of NCR was agreeing that Martini was a prophet. He makes a parallel with the context of story of Nicholas Copernicus and Galileo Galilei.

    McClory does not resolve issues I identified above; and moreover I wouldn’t place the story of the sciences working through evidences, with the story of Martini.

    ‘ Was he reaching out to some like-minded colleagues from within the institution, even in the upper reaches of the Vatican, who, like him, have grown weary of the endless retrenchment, the reform of the reform and the insistent papal drumbeat of gloom and negativity? Was Martini hoping for a fearless Galileo, or maybe several, for this age and in this dire situation? God knows, at some point and at some time, there has to be a breakthrough and a sharp turn in the direction of the institutional Catholic church.

    May Carlo Maria Martini live on as a prophet of the coming new age. ‘

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