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Called a “zealous pastor” by Pope Benedict XVI, Giovanni Cardinal Cheli swapped the temporal for the eternal last night, after 94 years of life spent for the most part in service to “the Gospel and to the Church”. The College of Cardinals, of which Cardinal Cheli was a non-voting member, now number 209, with 118 of them electors.
Giovanni Cheli was born in Turin and was ordained for the Diocese of Asti in 1942, after obtaining a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Lateran University. In Asti, he worked as chaplain to the youth section of Catholic Action, and also taught at the diocesan seminary. In 1952, after a time working in Rome and earning a licentiate in theology, Fr. Cheli entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See in 1952.
His first posting was in Guatemala, followed by Spain and Italy. In Madrid, he performed pastoral work in addition to his duties in the nunciature. In 1967, Fr. Cheli was assigned to the Council for Public Affairs of the Church. In 1973, he became permanent observer to the United Nations, an assignment which was confirmed again in 1976. In 1978, he was once of the few bishops consecrated by Pope John Paul I. Archbishop was renowned as an expert on the Church’s issues in relations with the Communist nations.
Archbishop Cheli was appointed as Pro-President of the Pontifical Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, which would became a pontifical council in 1988, still under the leadership of Archbishop Cheli.
Shortly before his retirement in 1998, Pope John Paul II made him a cardinal, with the deaconry of Santi Cosma e Damiano. Ten years later, Cardinal Cheli became a cardinal priest with the same title church.
Outspokenly critical on many issues, Cardinal Cheli protested the US invasion of Iraq in 2001, the age limits for cardinals and some of the curial appointments of Pope Benedict XVI.
Cardinal Cheli was among the five oldest cardinals of the Church.
One day before the admission of six new members to the group of cardinal electors, the number of that group drops with one to 114. Renato Raffaele Martino reached the age of 80 today and has thus became ineligible to vote in a future conclave.
Hailing from the southern Italian town of Salerno, Renato Martino entered the Holy See’s diplomatic service in 1962, five years after his ordination to the priesthood. He earned a doctorate in canon law in that time. Fr. Martino served in various countries, among them Nicaragua, the Philippines, Lebanon, Canada and Brazil.
In 1980, he was consecrated to bishop and made titular archbishop of Segermes in modern Tunisia. Archbishop Martino was sent to head the diplomatic missions in Thailand, and Laos. In 1981, he also became such in Singapore in addition to his other positions. Brunei and Malaysia followed in 1983.
In 1986, he was reassigned to the high-profile position of Permanent Observer to the United Nations. In his time at the UN in New York, Archbishop Martino was an outspoken critic of the American invasion of Iraq in 1991. Another important call, related to his future functions in Rome, was his call for a safe heaven to be created for Tutsi refugees in Rwanda, to prevent the death of 30,000 people.
Archbishop Martino would continue in this position until 2002, when he was recalled to Rome to become president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. With that position came the red hat, and Cardinal Martino was created in 2003, in Blessed John Paul II’s last consistory. He became cardinal deacon of San Francesco di Paolo ai Monti. As head of Justice and Peace, Cardinal Martino intervened, to no avail, on behalf of Terri Schiavo, in the widely-covered case of her euthanasia. He also spoke out against the death sentence against Saddam Hussein and called for a international peace conference for the Middle East. He was once again openly against American interventions in Iraq. Later, he was involved in peace conferences between Israel and Palestinians, and likened Gaza to a “huge concentration camp”. In another example of his strongly pro-life position, Cardinal Martino urged Catholics to stop donating to Amnesty International when that organisation decided to advocate abortion in 2007.
From 2006 until his retirement in 2009, Cardinal Martino was also the president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.
Following his retirement, Cardinal Martino remained a member of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of People, the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See and the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State. His pro-life attitude was rewarded in 2009 with the awarding of the title of Honorary President of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute in Rome. In 2011, in his last major diplomatic endeavours, Cardinal Martino visited Yangon, the capital of Myanmar, where he met with Aung San Suu Kyi.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko
In Colombia another cardinal of the Catholic Church reaches the age of 80, thus losing his vote in a future conclave. He is Pedro Cardinal Rubiano Sáenz, and his birthday today means that there are 117 cardinal electors left.
Pedro Rubiano Sáenz was born in Cartago, western Colombia. Studying in Popayán, Colombia and in Québec, Canada, he was subsequently ordained for the Diocese of Cali. As a priest, Fr. Rubiano Sáenz founded several parishes, functioned as chaplain to the Air Force Academy, a clinic and a college. He later was assigned as treasurer of the diocese, which by then had been elevated to an archdiocese, and vicar for pastoral activity. He also worked as vice-rector of a school. In 1971, he was appointed as bishop of the Diocese of Cúcuta, located in the north of Colombia.
Aged not yet 40, Bishop Rubiano Sáenz was among the youngest of the nation’s bishops. After almost 12 years in Cúcuta, he was appointed as Coadjutor Archbishop of his native Archdiocese of Cali, succeeding Archbishop Alberto Uribe Urdaneta in 1985. In 1986, he hosted Blessed Pope John Paul II as he visited Colombia. Archbishop Rubiano Sáenz headed the Colombian Bishops’ Conference from 1990 to 1994. In the middle of that tenure, he was transferred to the nation’s capital and became Archbishop of Bogotá.
As Primate of Colombia, Archbishop Rubiano Sáenz would soon be made a cardinal. This happened in 2001, and he became the first cardinal priest of Trasfigurazione di Nostro Signore Gesù Cristo. From 2002 to 2005, he once again chaired the Bishops’ Conference. In 2010, Cardinal Rubiano Sáenz retired as Archbishop of Bogotá.
Cardinal Rubiano Sáenz was a member of the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples.