Italy bids farewell to EU parliament chief at state funeral

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

ROME (Reuters) - Italy held a state funeral on Friday for European Parliament President David Sassoli, with Italian and European Union leaders joining family and friends for a service in a Rome basilica.

"I've had a good life, an extremely good life, even if a bit complicated, and to end it at 65 is really too early," Sassoli's wife, Alessandra Vittorini, quoted her husband as saying shortly before his death.

Friends said he had undergone a bone marrow transplant 10 years ago and suffered renewed problems late last year related to his immune system. He died in a cancer clinic in northeastern Italy on Tuesday.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and his Spanish counterpart Pedro Sanchez were among the mourners on Friday.

Sassoli's coffin was draped in the European flag as it entered the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and of the Martyrs, with the Italian military providing a guard of honour.

"He wanted a united Europe with core values, and he served to make the institutions work. Not ideologies but ideals, not calculations but a vision," Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, a childhood friend of Sassoli, said in his homily at the service.

"We all carry in our hearts David's almost shy smile," he added.

Originally a TV journalist, Sassoli switched to politics in 2009, winning election that year to the European Parliament, representing the centre-left Democratic Party. He had been president of the 705-seat EU assembly since July 2019 and his term had been due to end this month.

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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