The papal telegram, sent by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, was read during Father Carlo Cremona's funeral service, held on Monday at the Shrine of the Virgin of Good Counsel in Genazzano, Italy.

Father Cremona, 85, died on Sunday in the television studios, shortly after taking part in a religious program produced by RAI, the Italian public TV station.

In his message, the Pope paid homage to the deceased for his 50 years of "commitment to religious journalism, carried out with admirable dedication until the last day of his life."

The priest became famous for his biography on "Augustine of Hippo." He also worked with Avvenire, a newspaper of the Italian episcopal conference. His books include "Life of Christ" and the biography "Paul VI."

At the funeral, Father Ciro Benedettini, assistant director of the Vatican press office, mentioned that Father Cremona was engaged in research on St. Augustine's influence on recent popes.

Specifically with the help of Paul VI's secretary, Father Cremona found that Pope's copy of St. Augustine's "Confessions," which the Pope himself had annotated on the margins. Father Cremona said that the publication of that document would shed new light on Paul VI.