ROME (AP) — With a European Union flag draping the coffin, Italy conducted a state funeral Friday for David Sassoli, the EU parliament’s president who died earlier in the week.
Top EU officials including Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel attended the service in Holy Mary of the Angels church in Rome’s Republic Square. Also present were Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella and Premier Mario Draghi.
Sassoli, 65, died in an Italian hospital on Tuesday. He had suffered for months from poor health following pneumonia caused by the legionella bacteria and abnormal functioning of his immune system.
Bologna Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, a friend of Sassoli’s, said in a homily: “For him, politics had to be for the common good. That’s why he wanted a united Europe, with its founding values, and he worked so that its institutions functioned well.”
“Not ideologies, but ideals, not calculations but a vision,” said the cardinal.
Sassoli’s daughter Livia quoted from her father’s Christmas season message in his EU parliament role that he had issued a few days before his final hospitalization. In that message, the EU parliament’s president had decried that Europe’s “borders in some cases had become borders between that which is moral and that which is immoral, between humanity and lack of humanity.” Sassoli in those words didn’t criticize specific situations or policies, but his reference to European attitudes to migrants was apparent.
Before entering politics, Sassoli worked as a reporter for Italian state television, eventually reaching one of its most prestigious positions — anchor of the network’s main station during the dinnertime news.
Several journalists offered their recollections of him during the service.
His son, Giulio Sassoli, described his father as a person with “strong ideas and gentle ways.”