The pope called Barragán to Rome to serve in the Roman Curia as the president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers in 1996 and made him an archbishop in January 1997.
John Paul II named him a cardinal in 2003. Less than two years later, Barragán participated in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI.
As president of the health care council, Barragán defended the teachings of the Catholic Church on health issues and was a strong voice of opposition to abortion and euthanasia.
He made headlines in 2005 by speaking out on the Terry Schiavo case, saying “Let’s stop with the euphemisms—they killed her.” He later also called for an investigation into the death of Eluana Englaro by euthanasia in 2009.
Barragán retired as the head of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers in 2009 at the age of 76.
Shortly after becoming pope in 2013, Pope Francis visited Barragán in the hospital, where the cardinal was being treated for an intestinal obstruction.
In 2019, Barragán celebrated the 40th anniversary of his ordination as a bishop. After presiding over a Mass in the diocese of Zamora, he reflected: “Everything has been a gift to the point where I have nothing left to brag about,” according to Vatican News.
“And now I'm giving it away. I've been trying ... to give away everything the Lord has given me,” he said.
This article was updated at 20:00 Rome time to include a telegram message from Pope Francis.