Pope Francis remembers late Spanish cardinal as a ‘devoted pastor’

Cardinal Francisco Álvarez Martínez (1925-2022) Cardinal Francisco Álvarez Martínez (1925-2022). | Conferencia Episcopal Española via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Pope Francis offered his condolences on Wednesday following the death of Spanish Cardinal Francisco Álvarez Martínez at the age of 96.

In a telegram released by the Vatican on Jan. 5, the pope paid tribute to the former archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain who died at 6:45 a.m. local time on Wednesday at a hospital in the capital, Madrid.

“Upon receiving the news of the death of Cardinal Francisco Álvarez Martínez, archbishop emeritus of Toledo, I express to Your Excellency my deepest sympathy, asking you to be good enough to convey it also to the relatives of the deceased prelate and to all those who form part of that ecclesial community,” the pope said in the telegram sent to Archbishop Francisco Cerro Chaves, the current head of Toledo archdiocese, Spain’s primatial see.

“Likewise, remembering this devoted pastor who, for years and with fidelity, gave his life to the service of God and the Church, I offer prayers of suffrage for the eternal repose of his soul, so that the Lord Jesus may grant him the crown of glory that does not wither, and as a sign of Christian hope in the Risen Lord, I impart to all the apostolic blessing.”

Archbishop Cerro Chaves announced the cardinal’s death in a Jan. 5 letter to local Catholics.

He wrote: “I reiterate to all of you the invitation to pray for his eternal rest, while we thank the Lord for all the gifts received in our archdiocese of Toledo, in all the dioceses in which, with ‘obedience and peace,’ as his episcopal motto stated, he left his testimony of service in charity, and in the whole Church.”

Francisco Álvarez Martínez was born on July 14, 1925, in Santa Eulalia de Ferroñes, northwest Spain.

He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Oviedo on June 11, 1950.

He served as personal secretary to Archbishop Francisco Javier Lauzurica y Torralba of Oviedo and worked in a parish in the city’s Corredoría neighborhood.

In 1973, he was named bishop of Tarazona, in northeastern Spain. Three years later, he was appointed bishop of Calahorra y La Calzada-Logroño. In 1989, he was chosen to lead the Diocese of Orihuela-Alicante, in southeastern Spain.

Pope John Paul II selected Martínez as archbishop of Toledo on June 23, 1995.

He served as a member of the standing commission and executive committee of the Spanish bishops’ conference.

He received the cardinal’s red hat from John Paul II on Feb. 21, 2001, on the same day as the future Pope Francis.

Martínez retired as archbishop of Toledo in 2002 at the age of 77. He took part in the 2005 conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI shortly before he turned 80 and lost the right to vote.

Following his death, there remain 120 cardinals eligible to participate in a conclave and 94 who are ineligible, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who resigned the rights extended to cardinals in 2020.

The funeral of Cardinal Martínez will be held on Jan. 7 at the Primatial Cathedral of St. Mary of Toledo.

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