Cardinal Ernesto Corripio Ahumada, who helped establish renewed Vatican relations with Mexico’s government, died Thursday at his Mexico City home. He was 88.
Corripio died from complications of heart problems, thrombosis and diabetes, said Father Hugo Valdemar, spokesman for the Mexico City archdiocese.
Known for his skill at balancing relations between the church and the state, Corripio was the country’s most visible cardinal when Mexico reestablished formal diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1992 after decades of conflict.
Underscoring those changes was the fact that Corripio had to wear secular clothing when he greeted Pope John Paul II on his initial trip to Mexico in 1979 because federal law prohibited public use of clerical garb. That law was later abolished.
Corripio was born June 29, 1919, in the Gulf Coast port of Tampico. He served as a priest in the northern state of Tamaulipas from October 1942 to December 1952, when Pope Pius XII elevated him to the post of bishop at age 33.
He was then the youngest bishop in the world, according to an archdiocese-distributed biography. He was elevated to cardinal on June 30, 1979, and stepped down in September 1994 when he reached the church’s mandatory retirement age of 75.
Corripio moved easily among both rich and poor, according to religion expert Elio Masferrer.
“He knew how to balance his relations with the powerful and the popular sector, the workers,” Masferrer said.
Corripio will be entombed in Mexico City’s cathedral; church officials have not said when.