ROME – From politicians to the pope, to rank-and-file Catholics and non-believers, Italy is bidding farewell to Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a rare liberal voice among top churchmen who died last week after battling Parkinson's disease.
By the time his funeral began Monday in Milan, where he long served as archbishop, some 150,000 people passed by Martini's remains in the city's cathedral in tribute. Milan Cardinal Angelo Scola noted that admirers included many non-Catholics.
Pope Benedict XVI sent a message, read at the funeral, praising Martini's "great openness of spirit."
Martini had encouraged discussing divisive church issues including homosexuality and priestly celibacy. In an interview published posthumously, Martini criticized the church as being '200 years behind the times' and urged radical change.
Jews praised his efforts to improve Catholic-Jewish relations.