Cardinal Renato Corti, a popular retreat master and spiritual director, died May 12 at the age of 84.

In a condolence message, Pope Francis said he remembered "with affection and admiration this brother who served the Lord Jesus and the church with exemplary dedication."

Cardinal Corti engaged in an "intense spiritual and pastoral ministry without sparing himself, but rather giving himself for the Gospel," the pope said. Everything he did was "animated by a passionate desire to communicate the Gospel of Christ."

Retired as the bishop of Novara in 2011, he was named a cardinal by Pope Francis in October 2016, seven months after he celebrated his 80th birthday. The pope had chosen him to write the Good Friday Way of the Cross meditations in 2015, which he styled as an exercise for people to imagine what Jesus was thinking and feeling as he endured his passion.

Cardinal Corti's death leaves the College of Cardinals with 222 members, 122 of whom are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to enter a conclave to elect a new pope.

Born in Galbiate, Italy, in the archdiocese of Milan, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1959 by then-Archbishop Giovanni Battista Montini, who was elected Pope Paul VI in 1963.

After four years of parish ministry, he began focusing on spiritual direction, particularly in seminaries.

He served a three-year term as rector of the archdiocese seminary for theological studies in Saronno before then-Archbishop Carlo Maria Martini chose him as vicar general in 1980. St. John Paul II named him an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese in 1981.

Named head of the Diocese of Novara in 1990, St. John Paul asked him in 2005 to lead a Lenten retreat for him and members of the Roman Curia. The retreat, in February of that year, took place between St. John Paul's hospitalizations for treatment of the flu and difficulty breathing. It was the pope's last Lenten retreat.