Sainthood cause of Argentine cardinal moves forward

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A man holds an Argentine flag at the Vatican in this 2014 file photo. Photo: CNS/Angelo Carconi, EPA
A man holds an Argentine flag at the Vatican in this 2014 file photo. Photo: CNS/Angelo Carconi, EPA

The sainthood cause of Argentine Cardinal Eduardo Francisco Pironio, who organised the first World Youth Days as president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, has been forwarded to the Vatican.

Cardinal Agostino Vallini, papal vicar for Rome, formally closed the diocesan phase of the sainthood process on 11 March. The cause now advances to the Congregation for Saints’ Causes.

Born in Argentina in 1920, Blessed Paul VI named him auxiliary bishop of La Plata in 1964 and bishop of Mar del Plata in 1972. He served as secretary general of CELAM, the Latin American bishops’ council, from 1968 to 1972 and as president of the council from 1972 to 1975.

Blessed Paul VI brought him to Rome in 1976 as prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. And St. John Paul named him president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity in 1984; at the council, he played a key role in establishing the World Youth Day celebrations.

Cardinal Pironio was a close friend of Pope Francis during his time as Jesuit provincial of Argentina. In a 2008 interview, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio recalled Cardinal Pironio’s humility in the face of persecution and calumny, even before his death to bone cancer in 1998.

A man who spoke of ill of the cardinal visited him in his sick bed, he recalled. “(Cardinal) Pironio, despite being in a lot of pain, upon seeing the person his face lit up and he sat up in his bed to give him a hug. This made him a saint. He knew everything that person said about him.”

The diocesan phase of his cause to sainthood was formally opened in 2006. The Congregation for Saints’ Causes will study the cardinal’s life and writings. The next step would be a papal decree that Cardinal Pironio heroically led a life of Christian virtue. A miracle attributed to his intercession would be needed for his beatification.