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Carlo Cardinal Caffarra, Archbishop-emeritus of Bologna, died at age 79 on Wednesday morning, September 6, 2017. Although the Cardinal had been unwell for some time, reported the website of Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian Bishops Conference, the death occurred "suddenly." Born in 1938, Caffarra was a priest for 56 years and a bishop for almost 22 years. He was named Archbishop of Bologna in 2003 and created a cardinal in 2006, retiring at age 77 in 2015. But he has become known throughout the universal Church in the past several years due to his contribution to Remaining in the Truth of Christ (Ignatius Press, 2014), various interventions on behalf of the traditional family, and his being one of the four Cardinals who submitted the five Dubia to Pope Francis in September 2016, on the heterodox innovations of Amoris Laetitia. Another signer of the Dubia, Joachim Cardinal Meisner, died at age 83 this past July. Almost one year later, the Dubia remain unanswered, categorically ignored by Pope Francis.
Cardinal Caffarra was also one of the very few Italian prelates to have publicly celebrated the Traditional Latin Mass in recent years. Several months ago, His Eminence participated in the fourth annual Rome Life Forum held from May 18-19, 2017, along with fellow Dubia signer, Raymond Cardinal Burke. Caffarra spoke on "Our present situation: the battle between Our Lord and the reign of satan." The text of the Cardinal's speech is available here. During the conference, the Cardinal also described his now well-known communication with Sr. Lucia, the video available here.
Cardinal Caffarra also had a doctorate in Canon Law, specializing in Moral Theology. Still a simple priest in 1981, he was asked by Pope John Paul II to found the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, of which he remained president until 1995. Caffarra described the beginning years of the Institute — whose Patroness is Our Lady of Fatima — as very difficult ones because many people "within and outside of the Church did not want the Institute (to exist)." Disheartened, in 1983 or 1984, then-Father Caffarra wrote to Sr. Lucia, the last remaining visionary of Fatima and a Discalced Carmelite nun, asking for her prayers for the Institute. Not expecting an answer, he was surprised several weeks later when a lengthy, handwritten reply arrived.
Sr. Lucia wrote: "Father, the moment will come when the decisive battle between Christ and the kingdom of satan will be over marriage and the family. Those who will work for the good of the family will experience tribulations and persecution. But, Father, do not be afraid, because Our Lady has already crushed his (satan's) head."
Cardinal Caffarra added in a May 2017 interview with Aleteia that he "began thinking a few years ago that Sr. Lucia's words are taking place," or coming to pass, referencing "two terrible events" in an "anti-creation constructed by satan," i.e. "the legitimization of abortion" and "the attempt to equate homosexual relationships with marriage." It is not a stretch of the imagination to believe that the Cardinal was also thinking of the war on the family being waged within the Church with the 2014 and 2015 Synods, resulting in the 2016 post-Synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which mocked true marriage by permitting the reception of the Sacraments by couples living in mortal sin.
Of the public efforts for the defense of God's creation and the defeat of the anti-creation of satan, and the universal and unavoidable duty of all Catholics to defend the truth, the Cardinal stated during his Rome Life Forum address: "Someone who does not testify in this way is like a soldier who flees at the decisive moment in a battle. We are no longer witnesses, but deserters, if we do not speak openly and publicly."
Asked during the Aleteia interview also about Fatima, Cardinal Caffarra noted a difference between Our Lady's coming to Fatima and previous apparitions: "At Fatima, She (Our Lady) prophesies; that is, She enters into and interprets human events. She had never done this before." It is encouraging that a prelate by no means a "Fatimist," i.e. not associated with Fr. Nicholas Gruner or Our Lady's Apostolate, recognizes the unique prophetic nature of Fatima, which cannot be dismissed as a simple, private revelation as any other apparition.
The Cardinal was then asked if Sr. Lucia also prophesied. To which he replied: "Yes, she fully entered into [Our Lady's prophecy] and has left her Memoires. Some are very impressive. She sensed that this was the task Our Lady had given her, that is, to hand on and interpret this prophecy." Questioned further if Sr. Lucia's words to him in her letter, regarding the "decisive battle," were also a prophecy, Caffarra responded: "Yes, absolutely. What Sr. Lucia wrote to me is being fulfilled today."
I am not claiming that Carlo Cardinal Caffarra was a saint, or asserting that His Eminence was as outspoken as were various Saints and other prelates of ages past. But he was one of a tiny percentage of cardinals in our day who was courageous enough to do his duty in defense of the unchanging doctrine of the Church regarding marriage. For that, he should be commended and thanked.
According to the Italian traditionalist blog, Messa in latino, Cardinal Caffarra recently told a priest who had phoned him, discouraged at the current situation in the Church: "The Lord will not abandon His Church... there were 12 apostles and the Lord will start again with a few... we need to ask for the strength of St. Athanasius who found himself standing alone against everybody... we need to have faith, hope and strength." A sober yet comforting reminder to us remaining in this earthly battle, not to give up our fight, or to be saddened by the small number of our ranks.
May Our Lady of Fatima intercede for the eternal repose of the soul of Carlo Cardinal Caffarra. May His Eminence soon receive the reward of life everlasting from Our Divine Lord, Himself "the Truth" (John 14:6), Who "can neither deceive nor be deceived." (Act of Faith).
Requiescat in pace!