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St John Paul’s trip planner, former head of Vatican Radio dies at 93

Cardinal Roberto Tucci, left, speaks at a 2011 Vatican press conference alongside Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi (CNS)

Cardinal Roberto Tucci, best known for having managed the travel logistics of the former globe-trotting pope, St John Paul II, died on Tuesday in Rome at the age of 93.

The Italian Jesuit and former head of Vatican Radio was not only a tough-negotiating papal advance man, he was also an expert at the Second Vatican Council, a theologian, an ecumenist and a man unafraid to give blunt advice on sensitive internal Vatican affairs.

In a telegram to the head of the Jesuits, Father Adolfo Nicolas, Pope Francis recalled the late cardinal’s fruitful and active life “spent in a consistent and generous adherence to his religious vocation, attentive to the needs of others and faithful pastor to the Gospel and the church, following the example of St Ignatius.”

Born in Naples April 19, 1921, to an Anglican mother, he was baptised into the Anglican Communion before becoming a Catholic as a student. Ordained in 1950, he joined the staff of the Jesuit journal “La Civilta Cattolica,” where he served as director, from 1959 to 1973.

During Vatican II, he was an expert or “peritus,” working especially on the council’s documents on the laity and on the church in the modern world. The latter project brought him into close contact with Polish Archbishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow, the future Pope John Paul II. Cardinal Tucci also gave briefings for Italian journalists during the council, showing a real flair for the job.

After the council, Cardinal Tucci helped implement its teachings. Blessed Pope Paul VI appointed him to a number of positions at the Vatican, including roles in social communications, the Synod of Bishops and ecumenical dialogue.

In 1973, he was named director-general of Vatican Radio, a position he held until 1985. In 1982, Pope John Paul chose him to replace U.S. Archbishop Paul Marcinkus as the main planner of papal trips.

In 2001, Pope John Paul named the then-79-year-old priest to be a cardinal; he was one of five older cardinals honored for their service to the church in that consistory.

With Cardinal Tucci’s death, the College of Cardinals has 224 members, 122 of whom are under age 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave.