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Italian cardinal who was John XXIII’s private secretary dies aged 100

Then Archbishop Loris Capovilla during an interview at his residence in Bergamo, Italy, in February 2012 (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Cardinal Loris Capovilla, who served as private secretary to St Pope John XXIII, has died at the age of 100.

The cardinal, born in Pontelongo, Padua, was the oldest member of the College of Cardinals, elevated to the cardinalate by Pope Francis in 2014.

He served as private secretary to Cardinal Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, later Pope John XXIII, from 1953 to the pope’s death in 1963. He then served as an expert at the Second Vatican Council before becoming Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto and later papal delegate of Loreto.

When his elevation to the cardinalate was announced Cardinal-elect Capovilla said it was a “sign of attention to all those thousands of priests around the world who have spent their lives in silence, in poverty, in obedience, happy to serve God and our humble people, who need, as Pope Francis continually says, tenderness, friendship, respect and love”.

He received a dispensation not to attend a consistory and received his red hat during a visit from Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals.

In 1964 he published a memoir, The Heart and Mind of John XXIII: His Secretary’s Intimate Recollection.

Mgr Ettore Malnati, writing in La Stampa on the news of Cardinal Capovilla’s death, said he “kept alive the legacy of Pope John”.

The monsignor wrote: “Capovilla has devoted his whole life in the style of [Blessed John XXIII] to keep alive the dialogue with the great religious tradition of Judaism; with the community of Taizé in which he made a gift of Pope John compendium which, I can testify, was held in the cell that was of Brother Schutz; with the various Orthodox Churches. Patriarch Bartholomew met him personally in Sotto il Monte. [He] kept epistolary contacts with men of culture, journalists, politicians, like Gorbachev, workers, youth, businessmen, missionaries, priests and people of all faiths and even non-believers.”