by our Rome correspondent WITH the resignation of Cardinal Giuseppe Siri after 41 years as Archbishop of Genoa, the last of the Great Conciliar Conservative Cardinals leaves the scene. Siri was identified with Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani as leader of the Conciliar Conservatives but he always rejected the label saying he was an Independent.
Siri at 81 can best be understood as one of the oldstyle archbishops who is a dominant figure in his city. Siri was so important in his native Genoa that Genovese renamed the state holding company and the state steel works after him. The son of a dockworker and a janitor. This year he ws accepted by both parties as a mediator between dockers and management in the dispute over the future of the city's port.
Siri was the youngest cardinal in the Church when appointed by Pius XII at the age of 47 in
1953. When Giovanni Battista Montini fell from Pius' favour, it was expected that Siri would succeed Pius in the 1958 conclave.
Instead Angelo Roncalli (John XXIII) was the surprise choice, then it was Montini's turn (Paul VI). Next, for a month or two, John Paul I. Then, three conclaves after Siri had been tipped as Pope, he emerged again as a strong possibility. However, an anticonciliar interview he had given appeared just before the conclave, and the Italians split between supporters of Siri and those of Benelli. Then Karol Woytyla emerged.
Siri favoured the opening of negotiati6ns with East European regimes which began under John XXIII.
But he could not abide the Vatican Council and said it would need a century to repair the damage it had done. He felt the Church was abdicating its authority and its duties through the Council. His bete noir was Giovanni Battista Montini and it was a drama for him to find that Montini became Paul VI because it meant that authority and orthodoxy could no longer be identified.