Pope Francis offered his condolences on Wednesday following the death of Cardinal Luigi De Magistris at the age of 95.

In a telegram released by the Vatican on Feb. 16, the pope paid tribute to the former Major Pro-Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary, who died in Cagliari, the capital of the Italian island of Sardinia, days before his 96th birthday.

“In remembering this esteemed brother who, animated by irreproachable priestly zeal, served the Lord and the Church with great dedication, I think with gratitude of his generous commitment in the Holy See as a diligent and wise collaborator of my predecessors,” the pope said in a message to Archbishop Giuseppe Baturi of Cagliari.

“I also think of his love for the ministry of reconciliation, which he always carried out with admirable assiduity, dedicated to the good of souls.”

L’Unione Sarda, a local daily newspaper, reported that the cardinal continued to hear confessions at Cagliari Cathedral until a few years ago.

Luigi De Magistris was born in Cagliari on Feb. 23, 1926.

After gaining a degree in liberal arts at the University of Cagliari, he studied at the Pontifical Roman Seminary. He was ordained a priest of the Cagliari archdiocese on April 12, 1952.

Following further studies at the Pontifical Lateran University, he began his service for the Holy See when he was appointed secretary of the Lateran Athenaeum in 1958.

A year later, he was transferred to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

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In 1969, he was moved to the Council of Public Affairs of the Church.

Ten years later, he was named regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, a dicastery of the Roman Curia responsible for issues touching on the Sacrament of Penance and Seal of Confession.

He was assigned the titular see of Nova and consecrated as a bishop on April 28, 1996.

In November 2001, he was asked to serve as the Major Pro-Penitentiary. He retired from the role in 2003, at the age of 77.

He was a consultor of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Congregation for the Clergy, and the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.

Pope Francis gave him the cardinal’s red hat on Feb. 14, 2015.

His funeral will be held at Cagliari Cathedral on Feb. 17.

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ACI Stampa, CNA’s Italian-language news partner, reported that following the cardinal’s death, there are 223 members of the College of Cardinals, 119 of whom are eligible to vote in a conclave and 94 who are over the age of 80.