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Italy says goodbye to the EU parliament chief

Pallbearers carry the casket of European Parliament President David Sassoli during his funeral at Rome's Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and of the Martyrs, in Rome, Italy, January 14, 2022. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

On Friday, Italy hosted a formal funeral for European Parliament President David Sassoli in a Rome basilica, with Italian and European Union leaders accompanying relatives and friends.

The news: “I’ve had a good life, an exceptionally nice life, even if it was a little complicated, and to end it at 65 is really too early,” Sassoli’s wife, Alessandra Vittorini, quoted her husband saying before his death.

  • Friends say he underwent a bone marrow transplant ten years ago and was having problems with his immune system again late last year. On Tuesday, he died in a cancer clinic in north-eastern Italy.
  • On Friday, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, Charles Michel, President of the European Council, Sergio Mattarella, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, and his Spanish colleague Pedro Sanchez were among the mourning.
  • As Sassoli’s casket entered the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and Martyrs, it was covered in the European flag, with the Italian military providing a guard of honour.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella attends the funeral service of European Parliament President David Sassoli at Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and of the Martyrs, in Rome, Italy, January 14, 2022. Paolo Giandotti/Italian Presidency/Handout via REUTERS

What they’re saying: “He desired a united Europe based on shared principles, and he worked to ensure that the institutions functioned properly. Ideals, not ideas, calculations but a vision,” said Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, a boyhood friend of Sassoli, said in his homily service.

  • “We all carry in our hearts David’s almost shy smile,” he added.

The backstory: Sassoli began his career as a television journalist before transitioning to politics in 2009, when he was elected to the European Parliament as a member of the Democratic Party of the European Union.

  • He had been the 705-seat EU assembly’s president since July 2019, and his tenure was set to expire this month.
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