In a telegramme of condolences following the death of David Sassoli, Pope Francis recalls the many virtues of the man, the journalist, the politician who was universally acclaimed as a sincere and passionate promoter of the EU’s identity.
By Linda Bordoni
In a telegram addressed to Alessandra Vittorini, wife of David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament, who died in the early hours of Tuesday morning following a serious illness, Pope Francis said he remembers him as a man of faith “animated by hope and charity.”
The message, signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin on the Pope’s behalf, expressed the Holy Father’s spiritual closeness at this time of sorrow, and assured Sassoli’s wife and two children of his heartfelt participation in the mourning that has struck Italy and the European Union.
65-year-old Sassoli became President of the 705-seat European Parliament in July 2019. He was the second Italian president since the assembly was elected by universal suffrage. He was widely respected for being a strong defender of the EU’s core values, invoking a return to the spirit of its founders based on the rejection of conflict and nationalism and the promotion of peace and equality.
Pope Francis receives David Sassoli in audience in the Vatican in June 2021
Pope Francis, who met him on various institutional occasions, said he remembers him as a man of faith, “animated by hope and charity, a competent journalist and an esteemed man of the institutions who, calmly and respectfully, in his public role and responsibility, did his utmost for the common good with rectitude and generous commitment. He described him as a politician who always promoted a vision of solidarity of the European community with lucidity and passion, and dedicated himself with particular care to the least.”
He concluded by raising prayers of suffrage and invoking the Risen Lord’s eternal peace and consolation for those who mourn his passing.
Pope Francis and Sassoli
On 17 December last, marking Pope Francis’ 85th birthday, David Sassoli had sent his Best Wishes to the Pontiff in an interview with Vatican Radio.
On that occasion, the President of the EU Parliament described Francis’ pontificate as a “magisterium that speaks to the world.” He also reiterated his pledge to work for a European Union that welcomes and protects migrants and the most vulnerable members of society, as discussed with the Pope during an audience in the Vatican in June. He also upheld Pope Francis’ appeal to guarantee a fair distribution of anti-Covid vaccines in the global south.
EU flags flutter at half mast in memory of David Sassoli
The EU in mourning
Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, released a statement following news of Sassoli’s death in which he described him as “a symbol of balance, humanity and generosity.” Qualities, Draghi said, that have always been recognised by all his colleagues, from every political quarter and every European country.
Flags at EU institutions were lowered to half-mast as praise for Sassoli poured in from across the political spectrum.
European Commission President Ursula van der Leyen, a conservative who secured Sassoli’s backing within the EU parliament despite coming from different camps, said she had lost a dear friend.
“Today is a sad day for Europe. Our union loses a passionate European, a sincere democrat and a good man,” she told reporters. “He wanted Europe to be more united, closer to its people, more faithful to our values.”