Pope Benedict grieved the death of Cardinal Luis Aponte Martinez of Puerto Rico, who passed away at the age of 89 on April 10 – the same day he was ordained to the priesthood 62 years earlier.
In a message to local Church leaders on Wednesday, the Pope said he was “deeply saddened” by the news. He reflected that the late cardinal showed “great love for God and the Church” and lived immense “dedication to the cause of the Gospel.”
Cardinal Aponte had been seriously ill for some time and was hospitalized for over a month in the Puerto Rican capital. The archbishop emeritus of San Juan was the first Puerto Rican native to be ordained a bishop and the first to be elevated to the College of Cardinals.
Governor Luis Fortuno has declared five days of mourning for Cardinal Aponte and ordered flags be flown at half-mast at public buildings until Saturday. The cardinal will be buried at the Cathedral of San Juan.
Fortune, a close friend of the cardinal, recalled when he was given the red hat on March 5, 1973, noting that he was the only Puerto Rican to participate in the two conclaves of August and October of 1978, which elected John Paul I and John Paul II. He also attended the conclave of 2005 which elected Benedict XVI, although he was not eligible to cast a vote.
“With his life, Cardinal Luis Aponte Martinez chiseled blessings into the history of our country, and we hope his testimony of faith and charity will be a living example for the generations of today and the future.”
“Puerto Rico is in mourning, but we are certain that His Eminence’s dream has finally been fulfilled...to embrace Our Lady of Providence, whom he loved and was devoted to, and her Son Jesus,” the governor said.