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Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, advocate of the Traditional Mass, dies aged 88

Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos before the 2005 conclave (Getty Images)

Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, who championed the Traditional Latin Mass, has died in Rome at the age of 88.

The Colombian cardinal was president of the pontifical commission Ecclesia Dei when Pope Benedict XVI published Summorum Pontificum, granting greater freedom to the celebration of the older Mass.

He became a passionate advocate for the Latin Mass, sometimes known as the Extraordinary Form. He even claimed that Pope Benedict XVI wanted every parish to offer the older Mass, not just those where there was already demand.

“All the parishes. Not many – all the parishes, because this is a gift of God,” he told the Catholic Herald in 2008. “[The Pope] offers these riches, and it is very important for new generations to know the past of the Church. This kind of worship is so noble, so beautiful – the deepest theologians’ way to express our faith.”

He was speaking after becoming the first cardinal for 40 years to celebrate Mass in the Old Rite at Westminster Cathedral.

However, he became mired in controversy when a letter surfaced in 2010 that showed him thanking a bishop for shielding a priest convicted of sexually abusing boys. Cardinal Castrillón, the then head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy, praised Bishop Pierre Pican of Bayeux-Lisieux for risking imprisonment to defend Fr Rene Bissey, who was jailed in 2000 for 18 years for sexual abuse of 11 boys between 1989 and 1996.

The Vatican distanced itself from the letter. Spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said it showed “how opportune it was to centralise treatment of Catholic sex abuse cases by clerics under the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith”.

Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos was born in 1929. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1952 and made a bishop in 1971. Pope John Paul II made him a cardinal in 1998 and appointed him Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy. He served as President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei from 2000 to 2009.