Cardinal Carlo Martini says Church '200 years behind'

Catholics pay tribute to Italian cardinal Carlo Maria Martini at Milan's cathedral Cardinal Martini's body is lying in state in Milan Cathedral

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Italian Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini has described the Roman Catholic Church as being "200 years behind" the times.

The cardinal died on Friday, aged 85.

Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera has published his last interview, recorded in August, in which he said: "The Church is tired... our prayer rooms are empty."

Martini, once tipped as a future pope, urged the Church to recognise its errors and to embark on a radical path of change, beginning with the Pope.

Start Quote

The child sex scandals oblige us to undertake a journey of transformation”

End Quote Cardinal Martini

Thousands of people have been filing past his coffin at Milan's cathedral, where he was archbishop for more than 20 years.

The cardinal, who had retired from the post in 2002, suffering from Parkinson's Disease, is to be buried on Monday.

'Old culture'

Martini, a popular figure with liberal stances on many issues, commanded great respect from both Pope John Paul II and his successor Pope Benedict XVI.

The cardinal - a member of the Jesuit religious order - was often critical in his writings and comments on Church teaching, says the BBC's David Willey in Rome.

He was a courageous and outspoken figure during the years he headed Europe's largest Catholic diocese, our correspondent says.

Cardinal Martini gave his last interview to a fellow Jesuit priest, Georg Sporschill, and to a journalist at the beginning of August when he knew his death was approaching.


Cardinal Martini was a renowned academic and biblical scholar, as well as a prolific author of popular books on religion.

But it is highly unusual for a leading member of the Catholic hierarchy openly to challenge Church teaching - or rather to criticise the way in which the Church often expresses its teaching with negatives and prohibitions rather than encouragement to believers.

Pope Benedict is now faced with a difficult choice: whether or not to attend Cardinal Martini's funeral in Milan on Monday - which many leading Catholics say would be a powerful affirmation of Church unity.

The Pope has rarely awarded red hats to Catholic leaders of any nation who dare to question traditional doctrine.

The cardinal had returned to Italy from Jerusalem, where he had settled on retirement in 2002 to continue his biblical studies.

Catholics lacked confidence in the Church, he said in the interview. "Our culture has grown old, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up, our religious rites and the vestments we wear are pompous."

Unless the Church adopted a more generous attitude towards divorced persons, it will lose the allegiance of future generations, the cardinal added. The question, he said, is not whether divorced couples can receive holy communion, but how the Church can help complex family situations.

And the advice he leaves behind to conquer the tiredness of the Church was a "radical transformation, beginning with the Pope and his bishops".

"The child sex scandals oblige us to undertake a journey of transformation," Cardinal Martini says, referring to the child sex abuse that has rocked the Catholic Church in the past few years.

He was not afraid, our correspondent adds, to speak his mind on matters that the Vatican sometimes considered taboo, including the use of condoms to fight Aids and the role of women in the Church.

In 2008, for example, he criticised the Church's prohibition of birth control, saying the stance had likely driven many faithful away, and publicly stated in 2006 that condoms could "in some situations, be a lesser evil".

Corriere Della Sera plans to give a copy of his last book entitled Speak From The Heart to all its readers.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 663.

    "For 2000 years the Christian church has made an enormous contribution to progress in terms of education, tolerance, human rights and social development." What a load of cobblers!! The Christian church has much to answer to - the crusades, the spanish inquisition, the destruction of native races in the name of christianity and much more. Jesus would be ashamed of what has been done in his name

  • rate this

    Comment number 662.

    Spain, Japan, Holland and the U.K. are modern and progressive but not any more than other countries which have a Republic (like France, Italy etc...etc..) but the best bit is:

    "I'll take an old fashioned monarchy over a corrupt republic any day"

    (drum roll) HONEST? Really? Do you really believe that?
    HAHAHAHAHA! Brilliant! :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 661.

    Only 200 years behind? I think it's more like 2000. And will he care if the pope turns up for his funeral? I very much doubt if he will notice!

  • rate this

    Comment number 660.

    We are SNAP .|Survivors of those Abused by Priests--A Priest has just said and I quote " Priests accused of child sex abuse are often seduced by their accusers and that a first-time offender should not go to jail".
    ...............................................................................Rot in Hell you pervert!

  • rate this

    Comment number 659.

    Three top stories of the BBC tonight:

    Two old men have died (a cardinal and a crooner)

    One old man who's almost dead (a duke) has appeared in public.

    Is this how the BBC counters criticism that it's ageist??

  • rate this

    Comment number 658.

    The more they teach about Darwin and Isaac Newton and the history of the Earth space and time to kids the better. Then we can knock this Religion on the head once and for all 10,000 times more stars in the universe than grains of sand on the planet and people still belive in Adam and Eve and the world was made in 7 days. Religion has been behind almost every war past and present.

  • rate this

    Comment number 657.

    The Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox,Coptix, Syrian, Aremenian,Churches, etc.. is not a religion, but a Faith, Faith in Christ, our God, Lord, and Saviour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 656.

    A sense of the numinous is hard-wired into the human brain by evolution.

    Deny a religious component to your life and you a setting yourself up for tension and confusion. You are fighting against yourself.

    The immoderation and ignorance shine through these comments.

    A religious dimension is part of any culture. Without it comes instability and gnawing doubt and anger. Lots of anger.

  • rate this

    Comment number 655.

    Atheism is for muppets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 654.

    The man had a Brainwave?

    On his Death bed,mmmmm?

    He found through life he was the MAN???

    Until he found out and all Religions?? were perverted TOO core....

    YOUR shout BBC?

  • rate this

    Comment number 653.

    I rarely listen to anything the churches have to say anymore if i am honest. I just find them somewhat irrelevant and their attitude towards issues like homosexuality, contraception, abortion and so on too hostile and even bordering on offensive at times. I am sorry to see this man had died however. It does sound like the church really did need him. May he rest in peace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 652.

    Glad I left the UK which is descending into another Soddam and Gomorr
    I fancy the chance of finding 50 righteous people in UK is greater than finding 50 righteous Priests in your faith.

    On the basis of the etymological root of Sodomy, I suspect that your priests, bishops and cardinals are looking fearfully at the sky.

    But don't worry, nothing will happen. There's nothing up there

  • Comment number 651.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 650.

    The whole idea of religeon is several hundred years out of date, not just the catholic church.

  • rate this

    Comment number 649.

    if only he were still alive to re-inforce what so many Catholics feel; not only the new translation of the Mass,amongst other more serious problems such as the paedophile scandals, but the top-down attitude of the hierachy which seems to be totally out of touch with us parishioners.I sometimes feel like giving up altogether.

  • rate this

    Comment number 648.

    With opinions like that, I expect it'll be champagne all round in the Vatican tonight rather than martinis.

    Probably pink champagne.

  • rate this

    Comment number 647.

    CHECK ON YOU TUBE; The Vatican Murdered The Pope-In Gods Name.(For Ratzingers UK Visit 2010).HD

  • rate this

    Comment number 646.

    622 ruminations

    You heard of irony?

  • rate this

    Comment number 645.

    628.Al Gore

    I dont follow? please explain?

    Since matter/energy can neither be created nor destroyed, all you can do is change its form, then my statement is 100% accurate. Unless you plan on throwing youself into a blackhole, in which case I cant answer that, as we currently can only guess.

    Perhaps god knows?

  • rate this

    Comment number 644.

    Old man with yesterday's beliefs dies. This is not news Beeb.


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