Cardinal-designate and retired bishop of Novara, Italy, Renato Corti, pictured here in 2009, says that the experiences of some of the other soon-to-be cardinals make him reflect. Photo courtesy of Lukadomo, Wikimedia Commons

Italian cardinal-designate says experiences of other new cardinals make him reflect

  • October 15, 2016

VATICAN CITY – Being named a cardinal along with the nuncio who refuses to leave war-torn Syria, an Albanian priest sentenced to death and tortured by an atheist regime and a young African archbishop who put his life on the line to sow peace and reconciliation in Central African Republic has made Cardinal-designate Renato Corti pray and think hard.

"This morning, in prayer, I reflected on some of the people who were named cardinals," he said in an interview Oct. 11 with the news site of the Archdiocese of Milan. He cited Cardinal-designate Ernest Simoni, "who spent 28 years in prison under the regime of (Enver) Hoxha in Albania. That's very significant just as it is beautiful that the apostolic nuncio in Syria and the archbishop of Bangui were nominated."

"Naturally," he said, "these very meaningful figures lead me to say, 'Yes, but why are you significant?' I'm leaving the question open and will try to respond in an honest and generous way."

Cardinal-designate Renato Corti, the 80-year-old retired bishop of Novara, Italy, is one of 17 churchmen Pope Francis will induct into the College of Cardinals Nov. 19.

Now known as a popular spiritual director, he had spent a decade in Milan as a close collaborator, vicar general and auxiliary bishop to the late Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini. St. John Paul II had chosen then-Bishop Corti to preach the Lenten retreat for him and the Roman Curia in 2005 and Pope Francis picked him to write the Good Friday Way of the Cross meditations in 2015.

The cardinal-designate said he was at a parish celebrating Masses Oct. 9 when Pope Francis announced the names of the new cardinals. A member of the Oblate Missionaries of Rho, the community with which he lives, called and told him he heard on television that he was going to be a cardinal.

"I have received no communication directly – neither by voice nor in writing," he told the Milan news site. "But this morning they told me that a written text will arrive in the next few days."

Even before Cardinal Martini received his red hat, Bishop Corti said, he would insist that being a bishop meant not only a particular concern and care for one's diocese, but a general concern for the whole church. Once he became a cardinal, he said the title gave him a stronger sense of responsibility for "the journey of the universal church."

"That is a point I will meditate on," the cardinal-designate said. "Concretely, that could mean that I would write to the Pope about certain things as a way of being close to him and of dedicating myself to the journey of the universal church. I learned this from Martini. But he was 'the' Cardinal Martini and I am no one."

Cardinal-designate Corti also said he was challenged by Pope Francis' highlighting the connection between this group of new cardinals and the Year of Mercy.

"To be a proclaimer of the merciful love of God requires a daily concreteness," the cardinal-designate said. "For me it lies in the attention I give particularly to the poor who come to meet me here in the community where I am a guest."

Born in Galbiate, Italy, in the archdiocese of Milan, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1959 by then-Archbishop Giovanni Battista Montini, who was elected Pope Paul VI in 1963.

After four years of parish ministry, he began focusing on spiritual direction, particularly in seminaries.

He served a three-year term as rector of the archdiocese seminary for theological studies in Saronno before then-Archbishop Martini chose him as vicar general in 1980. St. John Paul II named him an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese in 1981 and appointed him to lead the Diocese of Novara in 1990. He retired in 2011 at the age of 75.

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