Pope Francis has sent condolences for the death of European Parliament President David Sassoli, who died Tuesday at the age of 65.

Sassoli, a former Italian television journalist who became a member of the European Parliament in 2009, died in a hospital in Aviano, Italy on the morning of Jan. 11, according to his spokesman, Roberto Cuillo.

He had been hospitalized in Italy since Dec. 26 due to “a disfunction of the immune system,” Cuillo wrote.

A Vatican message addressed to Sassoli’s wife, Alessandra Vittorini, expressed the pope’s spiritual closeness to the family, mentioning the parliamentarian’s two children, Livia and Giulio, by name.

“Pope Francis, while raising prayers of intercession, invokes from the Risen Lord eternal peace for him and consolation of heart for those who mourn his passing,” said a note signed by Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

“He remembers him as a believer animated by hope and charity, a competent journalist, and an esteemed public servant, who in a calm and respectful manner in the public responsibilities he held, did his utmost for the common good with integrity and selfless dedication,” the message said.

The papal telegram further lauded Sassoli for “promoting with clarity and passion a vision of solidarity of the European community and dedicating himself with particular care to the least ones.”

Sassoli had led the 700-plus members of the European Parliament since 2019. He was a member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, the second-largest group in the parliament.

Pope Francis received Sassoli for a private audience at the Vatican last June, two days after the European Parliament voted to adopt a report describing abortion as “essential healthcare” and seeking to redefine conscientious objection as a “denial of medical care.”

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The Matić Report also asserted that abortion is a “human right” and violations of “sexual and reproductive health and rights” are “a form of violence against women and girls.”

During the Vatican meeting, Sassoli and Pope Francis discussed “the need to protect the weakest and most vulnerable,” according to a press release from the European Parliament.

In an interview with Vatican Radio on Dec. 17, one week before he was hospitalized for the last time, Sassoli said, “a Europe that respects life is the Europe that we desire.”

Sassoli’s funeral will be held on Jan. 14 in the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs in Rome.