VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis sent a telegram Monday for the death of longtime Vatican diplomat Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, who died in Rome Sunday at the age of 92.
His death, the Pope wrote Nov. 20, “raises in my soul a feeling of sincere admiration for an esteemed man of the Church who lived with fidelity his long and fruitful priesthood and episcopate serving the Gospel and the Holy See.”
Pope Francis offered his prayers for Cardinal Montezemolo’s welcome, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Paul, “into joy and eternal peace” and for those who mourn the death of this “zealous pastor.”
The Pope also expressed his gratitude for the cardinal’s many years of “generous work” as an apostolic nuncio and the wisdom with which he devoted himself to the good of people in countries around the world.
The cardinal’s final appointment was as archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, from 2005 to 2009.
In his telegram, Pope Francis noted how the cardinal, in his role as the first archpriest of the basilica, “gave witness to a particularly intense and expert task.”
“Both from the pastoral point of view and from the organizational and artistic-cultural point of view, (he) aimed at restoring spiritual vitality to the whole structure and new impetus to the ecumenical vocation of that place of worship,” Francis said.
The Pope had visited the cardinal in a nursing home about one year ago, in one of his unexpected and private exits from the Vatican.
His funeral Mass will be Nov. 21 in St. Peter’s Basilica, celebrated by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, vice dean of the College of Cardinals.
At the end of the Mass, Pope Francis will preside over the rite of “Last Commendation” and the “Valedictus.”
Montezemolo was born in Turin Aug. 27, 1925. His father, a colonel in the Italian army, was killed during the Ardeatine Massacre in the Second World War. Many years later, Montezemolo and his sister publicly expressed their forgiveness of those who had killed their father.
As a young man, he fought in World War II before obtaining a degree in architecture. Feeling a calling to the priesthood, he then obtained a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a licentiate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, while working as an architect.
He was ordained a priest in 1954, and in 1959, he obtained a degree in canon law at the Pontifical Lateran University.
That same year he entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See — and for 42 years served as the nunciature secretary in various countries, including the apostolic delegation in Mexico, the apostolic nunciatures in Japan, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, and the Vatican Secretariat of State, as council for public affairs.
He was appointed undersecretary and then secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace, and in 1977, he was nominated titular archbishop of Anglona and apostolic pro-nuncio in Papua New Guinea and apostolic delegate in the Solomon Islands.
He was ordained a bishop June 4, 1977, and over the next 24 years was appointed to various apostolic nunciatures, first in Honduras and Nicaragua.
He was then made apostolic nuncio in Uruguay. In 1990, he was appointed apostolic delegate in Jerusalem, Palestine and Jordan, as well as apostolic nuncio in Cyprus.
In 1991, he was transferred to the titular see of Tuscania; and from 1994 to 1998, he served as apostolic nuncio in Israel. Finally, 1998-2001 he served as apostolic nuncio in Italy and in San Marino, retiring at the age of 75 in 2001.
Four years later, he was appointed archpriest of St. Paul Outside the Walls.
As an expert in heraldry, the system by which a coat of arms is devised, he contributed to the design of Benedict XVI’s coat of arms. He was elevated to the position of cardinal by Benedict XVI in the consistory of March 24, 2006.