The highest ranking priest of the Catholic Church in Puerto Rico, His Eminence Luis Aponte Martínez, died at 4:00 a.m. yesterday age 89 at the Auxilio Mutuo Hospital in Hato Rey, following several years of broken health during which he underwent surgery several times.
Over the past five years, Aponte Martínez, who would’ve celebrated 62 years as an ordered priest, had remained under the effect of sedatives to ease down the pain he suffered.
With his death, the country loses the only Puerto Rican priest who has been ordered as cardinal -- the highest-ranking position in the Catholic Church, only surpassed by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.
Born in Lajas on August 4, 1922, Aponte Martínez filled several posts throughout his life, such as assistant bishop of Ponce (1962), bishop of Ponce (1963) and archbishop of San Juan (1964). It was in 1973 that Pope Paul VI ordered him as cardinal.
In addition to having served at the Catholic Schools Superintendence, Aponte Martínez worked from several positions at the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM, for its Spanish acronym). Furthermore, he took part in two conclaves to elect popes John Paul I and John Paul II, whom he welcomed on Puerto Rican soil in 1984. For the conclave to elect Pope Benedict XVI, he traveled to Rome, though his vote was not considered as he was over the age limit (80 years old).
Throughout his life, Aponte Martínez was a great devout of the Puerto Rico Patron Virgin, Our Lady of Providence.
The remains of the cardinal will be buried at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Old San Juan.