Cardinal Carlo Furno, an Italian cardinal who was a longtime diplomat died Dec. 9 at the age of 94.
He specialized for 40 years in Vatican diplomacy, primarily in troubled areas of the Middle East and in poorer nations of Latin America. St. John Paul II, who named him a cardinal in 1994, had praised his diplomatic contributions in places such as war-torn Lebanon and poverty-racked Brazil.
Born Dec. 2, 1921, near the northern Italian city of Turin, he was ordained in wartime in 1944 and embarked on several years of theological and juridical studies.
In 1953, he was assigned to the Vatican’s diplomatic station in Colombia. Four years later he was transferred to Ecuador and three years after that to the apostolic delegation in Jerusalem.
Soon after his election in 1978, St. John Paul named him apostolic nuncio to Lebanon, a country caught up in civil war.
He was named nuncio to Brazil in 1982, remaining there for 10 years. St. John Paul had said Cardinal Furno’s work in Brazil helped support the country’s bishops face Brazil’s massive social problems.
A few years after being named apostolic nuncio to Italy in 1992 and made a cardinal in 1994, the late Polish pope named Cardinal Furno grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, a chivalric organization dedicated to supporting the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and to responding to the needs of Catholics in the Holy Land.
He continued serving as grand master when the late pope appointed him in 1997 to be archpriest of St. Mary Major in Rome.
He retired as archpriest of the basilica in 2004 and retired as grand master of the Knights in 2007.