2 Sep 2012

Late Cardinal critical of church

8:42 pm on 2 September 2012

A Catholic cardinal who died on Friday, told an interviewer before his death that the Catholic Church is 200 years behind the times.

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, 85, who was once tipped as a future pope, urged the Church to embark on a ''radical transformation, beginning with the Pope and his bishops".

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

Cardinal Martini, who had Parkinson's Disease, retired from the post in 2002. He is to be buried on Monday.

The Corriere della Sera newspaper on Saturday published his last interview, in which he told a fellow Jesuit priest in August that the Church is tired and will lose the allegiance of future generations unless it adopts a more generous attitude towards divorced people.

The question, he said, is not whether divorced couples can receive holy communion, but how the Church can help complex family situations.

"The Church is tired ... our prayer rooms are empty,'' he said.

"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."

The BBC reports Cardinal Martini was not afraid to speak his mind on matters that the Vatican sometimes considered taboo.

A prolific author and linguist, he answered readers' letters in a newspaper column for many years.