Wed, 29 Nov 2023

Italy pays tribute to former President Napolitano

27 Sep 2023, 04:49 GMT+10

ROME, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- The state funeral of Italy's longest-serving President Giorgio Napolitano, held on Tuesday in the country's Parliament, was attended by dignitaries from around the world.

Napolitano, who was in office between May 2006 and January 2015, died on Friday at the age of 98.

Flags on government buildings and Italian embassies abroad flew at half-mast on Tuesday, which was declared a national day of mourning. Parliament was closed for the day, and non-essential state business was halted.

Those present at the funeral included French President Emmanuel Macron, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and Sergio Mattarella, who succeeded Napolitano as Italy's head of state. All extended their condolences to Napolitano's widow, Clio Maria Bittoni, who was married to the former president for more than 60 years.

In remarks at the funeral, Napolitano was honored for a long and varied political career that began when he was elected to the lower house of the Italy's Parliament in 1953.

Napolitano was Italy's 11th president and the first to serve a second seven-year term. He stepped down two years into his second mandate citing his advanced age and declining health. He was also Italy's first president who had been a member of the Italian Communist Party.

In his most important role as president, Napolitano helped shepherd Italy through the 2011 financial crisis, persuading former European Commissioner Mario Monti to head a technocratic government following the resignation of Silvio Berlusconi as prime minister. Monti was able to negotiate support for Italy's government debt from the European Central Bank, preventing what would have been an unprecedented loan default.

"As head of state, he led the nation, embodying the values that are the foundations of our constitution," Italy's Senate President Ignazio La Russa said in remarks during the funeral.

Lorenzo Fontana, speaker of the lower house of Parliament, said Napolitano "was among the most important figures in the history of the republic."

Napolitano will be buried in Rome's Non-Catholic Cemetery.

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