VATICANCITY (Reuters) – Belgian cardinal Godfried Danneels, a strong liberal voice within the Roman Catholic Church and once seen as a outside contender to succeed Pope John Paul II, has died, the Vatican said on Thursday.
Danneels, 85, was a jovial and gifted preacher who spoke out on sensitive issues such as whether condoms could be used in the fight against AIDS and if women should have a larger role in running the Church. He also urged the Church to scale back the power of the Vatican and focus less on the pope.
Danneels once predicted that future popes were likely to retire before dying because modern medicine was extending life — something that came to pass in 2013 when Pope Benedict unexpectedly stood down as pontiff.
“We live too long and people cannot continue to carry that responsibility if they turn 90 or 100. It doesn’t matter how well they are looked after,” said Danneels, one of the most media-friendly members of the College of Cardinals.Born on June 4, 1933 in western Flanders, Danneels was made archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels in 1979 and took part in the 2005 conclave that chose Benedict and the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis.
(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Catherine Evans)