POPE JOHN Paul II was scheduled to preside at the funeral today of Cardinal Opilio Rossi, a longtime Vatican diplomat and curial official who died at the age of 93.
The cardinal, who was born in the United States to Italian parents and moved to Italy at the age of six, died in Rome on Monday.
In a telegram of condolence to members of the cardinal’s family, John Paul praised him for “many years of faithful collaboration with the Holy See, particularly as an apostolic nuncio and as president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.” Cardinal Rossi’s death leaves the College of Cardinals with 192 members, 129 of whom are under 80 and, therefore, eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope.
The Pope was to preside over the funeral for Cardinal Rossi in St. Peter’s Basilica and deliver a homily, while Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, dean of the College of Cardinals, would be principal celebrant of the Mass.
Born in New York on May 14, 1910, the future cardinal attended schools in the northern Italian region of Piacenza. He entered the minor seminary there at the age of 11. He later was sent to Rome, where he earned a doctorate in canon law.
Ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Piacenza in 1933, he began training for the Vatican diplomatic corps. His first assignment, in 1937 was in the Vatican Secretariat of State. After brief postings in Belgium and in Holland, he was sent to the Vatican representative’s office in Berlin, where he served 1940-45.
When the Second World War ended, he returned to the nunciature in Holland for several years, then was moved back to Berlin.
In 1953, Pope Pius XII named him an archbishop and nuncio to Ecuador, a post he held until 1959. After a two-year posting as nuncio to Chile, Pope John XXIII named him nuncio to Austria in 1961, a position he held for more than a dozen years.
Pope Paul VI named him to the College of Cardinals in 1976 and appointed him president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and president of the then-Pontifical Committee for the Family.