This morning Pope Benedict XVI sent a letter of condolence to Fr. Jose Rodriguez Carballo O.F.M., minister general of the Order of Friars Minor, after the death of Cardinal Umberto Betti O.F.M., former rector of the Pontifical Lateran University. Cardinal Betti died on April 1 at the age of 87.
According to Catholic Hierarchy, Betti was born on March 7, 1922 in Italy and professed his first vows to the Order of Friars Minor at the age of 16, later becoming a priest at 24. After 61 years of being a priest, Benedict XVI elevated him to cardinal at the age of 85.
In Benedict XVI’s letter he expresses “great sadness” upon learning about the death of Betti. He writes that his soul is “filled with gratitude to the Lord” at the ministry that the cardinal was able to carry out during his life.
Calling Betti an “illustrious theologian” and an “expert of Vatican Council II,” Benedict XVI thanks God for Betti’s work as a consultor of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, the Secretariat of State, and the rector of the Pontifical Lateran University.
With the cardinal’s passing, there are now 186 members of the College of Cardinals, including 115 who are eligible to vote in a papal election. This year, five additional cardinals will reach their 80th birthdays, which will further reduce the number of eligible participants to 110. Some Vatican insiders believe this may mean that Benedict XVI will identify additional Cardinals before the year is up.
The full message can be read below:
"It was with great sadness that I learned the news of the death of Cardinal Umberto Betti and, spiritually sharing in the mourning that has struck the Order of Friars Minor, I wish to express my heartfelt condolences. My soul filled with gratitude to the Lord, I recall the ministry that the lamented Cardinal carried out with such zeal, particularly as illustrious theologian, expert of Vatican Council II, esteemed consultor of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and of the Secretariat of State, and rector of the Pontifical Lateran University. Raising fervent prayers for such a worthy servant of the Gospel and invoking divine goodness to grant eternal peace to his soul, I send my special apostolic blessing to comfort his relatives, confreres, and all those mourning his passing."