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Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, archbishop emeritus of Bologna, died today at the age of 79.
An expert on matters of the family, he founded the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, and was its first president.
Born in 1938 and ordained to the priesthood in 1961, the Italian prelate governed the Diocese of Bologna for 12 years, from 2003 to 2015. His spiritual journey was significantly marked by his encounter with Don Luigi Giussani, founder of the Italian movement Communion and Liberation.
A professor at various Italian universities, as well as abroad, Cardinal Caffarra was specializing in moral theology at a time when Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humane Vitae (1968) was provoking great debates. A doctor in canon law, with a thesis on the indissolubility of marriage, he was nominated by Pope John Paul II as an expert at the Synod of Bishops on Matrimony and the Family in 1980.
In January 1981, the pope entrusted to him the foundation and first term of presidency of the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. There, Caffarra (not yet a bishop) taught ethics of procreation and bioethics. He was also a consultor of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1983-88), and took part in a study on genetic engineering for the Italian Ministry of Health.
Created cardinal by Benedict XVI in 2006, he participated in the conclave of March 2013 that elected Pope Francis. He was also a member of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes and the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, and an honorary member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
Following the synod on the family in 2014 and 2015, and the publication of the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (2016), the prelate was one of four cardinals who signed a request for clarification—dubia—regarding the document, along with Cardinals Walter Brandmüller, Raymond L. Burke, and Joachim Meisner. Cardinal Meisner died last July.
In January 2017, Cardinal Caffarra granted a rare interview to the periodical Il Foglio. There, he affirmed his “respect” for the pope, but also his concern regarding the “division among pastors” which was, he stated, the reason why they sent Pope Francis the dubia letter. In the interview, he also pointed out that “a pastoral ministry not founded and rooted in doctrine means founding and rooting pastoral practice in arbitrariness.”
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