U.S.-born Cardinal Rossi Dies at 93

Former President of Pontifical Council for the Laity

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 9, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Opilio Rossi, a former president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, died in a Roman clinic after a long illness. He was 93.

He headed the pontifical council at a time when its members included Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope. Cardinal Rossi was also president emeritus of the Cardinals’ Commission for the Pontifical Sanctuaries of Pompeii, Loreto and Bari.

In a telegram sent today to the deceased’s relatives, John Paul II expressed «his profound sympathy» over the cardinal’s death, adding that for «so many years he was a faithful collaborator of the Holy See.»

Born in New York on May 14, 1910, Opilio Rossi traveled as a child to Italy, his family’s native country. He studied at the Alberoni Seminary in Piacenza and obtained a licentiate in canon law from the San Apolinar Juridical Institute of Rome.

Ordained a priest in 1933, he entered the Vatican’s diplomatic service four years later. He worked in the Berlin Nunciature during the Second World War, from 1940-1945.

After being apostolic nuncio in Ecuador and Chile, he held this office in Austria from 1961-1974, signing, among other things, the agreement for the teaching of religion in public schools.

He was elevated to cardinal in 1976 by Pope Paul VI. In addition to being president of the laity council, Cardinal Rossi presided over the Pontifical Committee for the Family and the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses.

«I raise fervent prayers to God, Father of mercy, so that he will receive this zealous servant of the Gospel, granting him the eternal reward promised to the righteous,» John Paul II wrote in the telegram. The Holy Father will preside at the cardinal’s funeral service Friday in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The College of Cardinals now has 192 cardinals, including 129 who could vote for a new pope in a conclave.

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