ROME — Spanish Cardinal Carlos Amigo Vallejo, a medical student turned Franciscan and a much-loved archbishop of Seville, died in Spain April 27 at the age of 87.
He had experienced a number of complications after suffering a fall Feb. 22 and died at a university hospital outside of Madrid as a result of heart failure while trying to recuperate from surgery.
Pope Francis sent a telegram with his condolences to the faithful of Seville and Tangier, Morocco, as well as to the Order of Friars Minor. It was published by the Vatican April 28.
The pope praised the late cardinal for his devotion and fidelity, giving “his life in service of God and the church.”
Amigo had a great impact on the archdiocese of Seville, which he led as archbishop from 1982 to his retirement in 2009, as well as on the city and surrounding region.
The autonomous region of Andalusia named him “Favorite Son” in 2000; the city of Seville named him an honorary citizen with the title “Adopted Son” in 2007; and the province of Seville named him “Favorite Son” in 2011; the city council unanimously approved naming a large square after him in 2018.
He was known for working closely with the elderly, the sick and disabled, and being dedicated to those who were most in need.
During his 27 years as archbishop of Seville, he completely overhauled the diocesan Caritas and launched the “Carlos Amigo Center” to help assist people with substance abuse problems. He also was instrumental in implementing diocesan reforms allowing women to fully participate in traditionally male-only fraternal societies.
Born in Medina de Rioseco Aug. 23, 1934, he began studying medicine at the University of Valladolid, but he soon left to enter the Franciscan order.
He made his solemn vows in 1957 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1960.
Sent to Madrid, he studied psychology and taught in a center for special education.
In 1970, he was elected superior of the Franciscans’ Santiago province, a position he held until St. Paul VI named him archbishop of Tangier.
From 1973 until his appointment to Seville in 1982, he served as the archbishop of Tangier, a diocese with about 1,600 Catholics out of a population of 4.1 million, at the time, most of whom were Muslim.
The cardinal was credited with paving the way for the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Morocco, and he also was involved in mediating several territorial conflicts between Spain and North African countries.
In 1990, he was named a member of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America; he also served as president of the Spanish bishops’ commission marking the 500th anniversary of the evangelization of the Americas in 1992.
He was a prolific author, writing at least 35 books covering topics such as Catholic-Muslim dialogue and almost everything else in “One Hundred Responses for Keeping the Faith,” responding to questions on topics as diverse as God’s existence, the importance of chastity and the salary of pastors and bishops.
St. John Paul II named him to the College of Cardinals in 2003.
His death leaves the College of Cardinals with 209 members, 117 of whom are under the age of 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave.