Italian cardinal who worked with six popes dies aged 90

Globe-trotting Cardinal Coppa was a Latin expert at the Second Vatican Council

Cardinal Giovanni Coppa, an expert Latinist and former nuncio, has died aged 90.

In a condolence message, Pope Francis said the cardinal had “lived with fidelity his long and fruitful priesthood and episcopacy at the service of the Gospel and the Holy See”.

He continued: “I recall with gratitude his generous and competent work as a steadfast collaborator of six popes, my predecessors, who entrusted him with delicate and important offices.”

Born in Alba, Italy, on November 9, 1925, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1949. After studies at the Catholic University of Milan, he began working at the Vatican in what was known as the Apostolic Chancery. The office was responsible for drafting, in Latin, formal papal documents, such as those for canonisations and beatifications or those marking the establishment of new dioceses or announcing pontifical honours.

He served as a Latinist at the Second Vatican Council and later worked in the Vatican Secretariat of State, which had taken over the duties of the Apostolic Chancery.

Late in 1979, St John Paul II named him an archbishop and personally ordained him a bishop in early 1980. Given the task of promoting communications between the Vatican and its diplomatic missions abroad, “he visited all of the nunciatures, traveling all the way around the world five times,” said his official Vatican biography.

He served as nuncio first to Czechoslovakia and then to the Czech Republic from 1990 until 2001, when he retired.

In his condolence message, Pope Francis said the late cardinal’s work at the Vatican Secretariat of State demonstrated “pastoral wisdom and thoughtful attention to the needs of others”, and his work in Prague was “particularly intense and fruitful for the spiritual good of that nation”.

Benedict XVI had made him a cardinal in 2007.

Cardinal Coppa’s death leaves the College of Cardinals with 214 members, 114 of whom are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave.


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