Walking down the corridor to his apartment on the evening of April 19, 2005, Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estévez could be overheard singing softly to himself. It had a been a very good day — a day of great joy, gaudium magnum, to be precise. He was very happy and quite content for everyone to know it.
Earlier that evening, Cardinal Medina, in his role as senior cardinal deacon in the College of Cardinals, had announced to the city and to the world that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had been elected pope. It was fitting, for Cardinal Medina was, like Cardinal Ratzinger, one of the key figures of the John Paul pontificate.
Cardinal Medina died Oct. 3 in his native city of Santiago, Chile, just a few months shy of his 95th birthday. His funeral was held the following day in the metropolitan cathedral.
St. John Paul II’s Curia had a handful of very bright stars; one thinks of Cardinal Camillo Ruini, longtime vicar of Rome, and Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, prefect of bishops. But a special place was held by the two scholar-cardinals, Ratzinger and Medina. The former was there for the long haul, 23 years, and shaped the landscape of the pontificate.
Cardinal Medina was in the Curia for only six years (1996-2002) as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. He was a bulldozer who got things done, and in a hurry. More than anyone else, he solved the translation problem that had plagued the liturgy since the early 1970s.
Ordained in 1954 for Santiago, Cardinal Medina, like his German counterpart, was a scholar-priest who attended Vatican II as a peritus, or theological adviser. He distinguished himself at the Council, and returned to Chile as a longtime professor and grand chancellor of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. In 1984, he was consecrated auxiliary bishop of Santiago, and then was appointed bishop of Rancagua (1987-1993) and later Valparaiso (1993-1996).
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