09/02/2013, 00.00
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Cardinal Martini a saint, but not soon

by Piero Gheddo
A year after the death of the former archbishop of Milan, it is striking that no one has called on him the "odor of sanctity” required to initiate a cause of beatification . It is not easy to understand why, but it may be helpful to reflect on a life lived as a true Christian . The more time passes , the more Card. Martini will be understood and appreciated for his authentically missionary attitude, his dialogue with non-believers and his reaching out to those "distant" from Christ and the Church.

Milan (AsiaNews ) - Amid all the bad news emerging during this long hot summer, a bit of good news gladdens the heart . August 31 marked the first anniversary of the death of Card. Carlo Maria Martini . Last year I wrote three articles about my relationship with him, but the last one I did not immediately publish. The good news is that his tomb in the Milan cathedral continues to draw countless faithful who light candles and stop to pray. This article interprets a popular "odor of sanctity" that has permeated all since the day of his death.

The death of Card. Carlo Maria Martini (31 August 2012) aroused emotion , devotion, long queues to attend his "funeral" and for the Holy Mass for the repose of his soul in the cathedral of Milan , even international press filled pages with obituaries and op-eds dedicated to him.  But no one said he was a saint, no one noticed the widespread "odor of sanctity" of God's people , which is one of the signs that can start a cause of beatification .

It is not easy to understand why.  Was he not really a saint? Of course only God can be the judge of that.  The odor of sanctity is of course born from the saintly life led by a possible "servant of God" but also from the image that he gives of himself not only to those close to him but to the people of God and general public opinion.  Not only but also to the mass media which tends to judge everything on the basis of preconceived ideas and also a partial view of the facts. Those of us who have had the opportunity to know Cardinal Martini and follow him closely in his day's work ( as happened to me once a month for six years, in the Diocesan Pastoral Council ), have always admired his serenity of spirit, the constant reference the Word of God, His Holy Mass and prayer, the spirit of sacrifice , the ability to have a fatherly and merciful attitude towards others and to suffer with patience even the keenest disappointments. I remember when in the mid eighties complained that the Rosary and popular devotion to Our Lady were challenged being challenges by groups of faithful.

He was made of the right material for sainthood. But to understand the man and the priest - bishop Martini, then his missionary spirit must also be taken into account.  This was the underlying cause of his option for those distant from the church, in two priority directions that were not always shared. To proclaim Christ in a credible way, Card. Martini believed that the Church (ie all the people of God) must be converted to the gospel in two ways : on the one hand they had to welcome and reach out to the distant, different, without judging them, trying to understand their reasons, without To see faith as a gift of God, to understand that the Spirit that blows where it wills, that the in the most distant and non-believers there are seeds of the Gospel, we are no better than others. In short, the Church must always be converted to Christ, as Pope Benedict would often say, but when Martini would say it, then it aroused dislike and opposition in the flock safe in the fold of Christ, because of the sometimes negative light his personality was caste in.

On the other hand, Card. Martini thought that "the Church was lagging 200 years behind the times" as he himself said in his last interview . And this is not the fault of the curiae or priests, but because faith in the West falters in many , attendance at Sunday Mass decreases and the temptation is to conservatism, to lock ourselves up in defense like sheep in a fold threatened by thieves and wolves , Martini thought that these signals were instead "signs of the times" that invite us to a more evangelical lifestyle.

It is true that many of the faithful were sometimes scandalized by some of his statements (especially in recent years ) that seemed in disobedience to the Church and acquiescence to the world. And it is also true that our dear archbishop was often manipulated by those who did not love and do not love the Church! Even in those improper exaltations bothered me and bothered him too

and the Pastoral Council whenever he made an important intervention he always quoted John Paul II and everyone would note : " Let's see if he quotes the Pope! again" , they would say .

How complex the man was! Each of us is unique, unrepeatable, and incomprehensible from the outside. Only God can judge because he sees deep within our inner-most intentions.

Non-believers admired Card. Martini's ability not to judge anyone, not to argue or impose as well as his civic and social commitment. They admired the way he posed problems to the Church so that they would open up to others sharing the sufferings of the people in need and doing everything possible to help them and make them feel at home in the Church. The "Chair of the non-believers" was for me one of his most prophetic pastoral and missionary activities.

Believers instead complained about his statements, which appeared to "counterpoint " the Magisterium and Tradition of the Church, but they were a "missionary" provocation to the mystical body of Christ (one billion and 200 million !) that moves slowly, because the Church measures time not in years but centuries . His was a faith that "being one with the other" , not just a "caring because this is important."

Martini 's faith was firm and clear, but also in search of open confrontation with the arguments of others . He did not want a Christian life of habit or routine, he want believers to be restless in their faith, to confront their beliefs with non-believers and give an account of why they believe what they believe and to question whether their lives actually bear witness to Christ , if their faith in Christ is a light that warms and illuminates, or a candle flame flickering,  or a yeast that does not know how to ferment anything. The presence of non-believers closer to us, in our own families and society should question us and whether we are converted to Christ. This is also a missionary spirit .

I am convinced that the more time passes, and misunderstood or even questionable aspects of his teaching disappear, the more Card. Martini will be understood and appreciated for his authentically missionary attitude, his dialogue with non-believers or at least his reaching out to those who are "distant " from Christ and the Church.


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