Cardinal Marco Ce
Cardinal Marco Ce
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis praised the generosity and tireless dedication of the retired patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Marco Ce, who died at age 88 May 12 in a hospital in Venice. He had been recovering from a fractured femur after a fall a month earlier.

In a telegram of condolence to Archbishop Francesco Moraglia of Venice, Pope Francis described the late cardinal as a "meek and wise pastor" who offered his "generous service to the word of God" as well as his "fervid dedication to the carrying out of an authentic liturgical spirit."

A noted theologian and biblical scholar, Cardinal Ce used his free time after retiring as head of the church in Venice in 2002 to conduct retreats for bishops, priests, religious orders and lay groups.

Retired Pope Benedict XVI had asked the cardinal lead his weeklong Lenten retreat in 2006 and afterward praised the cardinal's meditations. Pope Benedict told the cardinal, who had led the pope and other participants through the Gospel of Mark, "You have given us again the certainty that in our boat -- despite all of the storms of history -- Christ is there."

The cardinal had said the central message of his talks had been a  message of hope, "the message of Easter: God loves our world and wants to save it through the death and resurrection of Jesus."

Known for his quiet, paternal approach and emphasizing the biblical and the spiritual, Cardinal Ce led the patriarchate of Venice for 23 years. He was assigned there by a newly elected Pope John Paul II in 1978; the patriarchate had been vacant since its leader, Cardinal Albino Luciani, had been elected Pope John Paul I in August and died a month later.

Born in 1925 in a farming family near Cremona, in northern Italy, Cardinal Ce was ordained to the priesthood when he was 22 after  receiving degrees in dogmatic theology and sacred Scripture.

He taught at the diocesan seminary of Crema, where he also served as rector in 1958.

Pope Paul VI named him auxiliary bishop of Bologna in 1970. Eight years later, St. John Paul II named him to Venice, and several months later, the Polish pope made him a cardinal in 1979.

Cardinal Ce's death leaves the College of Cardinals with 215 members, 119 of whom are younger than 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave.