I had an email from an Italian friend about Cardinal Martini, in response to my post on the late Cardinal: huge crowds did attend his "lying in state" and funeral and Corriera della Sera has wept salt tears over him.
My friend pointed out a few things non-Italians forget:
- Against the background of two non-Italian Pope, and in the face an absence of honourable Italian secular leaders, "the patrician" -an important word for many Italians- Martini stood out. He had a natural charisma. My friend pointed out than in the present economic times, when Italy has little role on the world and it seems likely that Italians will not in the future have a firm grip on the Papacy or even necessarily on the Curia, Martini was in a sense the Italian Pope. Italians tended to see Martini as holder of the legacy of John XXIII and Paul VI ( and probably John Paul I) and a spirit of "modernity"
- Milan is a huge Italian diocese, the Milanese are Ambrosian, not Roman Catholics. They have their own Rite, their own calendar, and to some extent their own law. They reflect very much a Northern Italian attitude to the south, for them Rome is "the South", almost Neapolitan, if nor Sicilian! The Milanese, especially the Church, define themselves in contradistinction to the rest of Italian, most especially "Rome", which is seen the source of every sort of political and cultural corruption and vice.
- He also represented many of the post-war Italian Socialistic and Democratic values that have been obscured under leaders such as Berlusconi. He was a strong leader too, absent in the political arena and absent in the Church; the Bertone / Sodano squabble which seems to be at the root of Vatileaks has done great damage to the image of leading Italian clergy, it shows them as week. "Italians" my friend pointed out, "like to think of themselves on the left, even if in practice they can no longer afford it".
- Martini was a popularist!