Former Italian President Giorgio Napolitano dies aged 98

Two-time former Italian President Giorgio Napolitano has died, according to media reports Friday. He was 98.

The former president, whose health had been serious for some time, died at the Salvator Mundi International Hospital in Rome, state-run ANSA news agency reported, citing sources.

Born June 29, 1925, in Naples. Napolitano served as the 11th president from 2006 to 2015 and was the first head of state to be elected for a second mandate in 2013.

He was the country's first ex-Communist president and was referred to as Re Giorgio, or King Giorgio, due to his dominant position in Italian politics.

"I mourn the passing of former President of Italy Giorgio Napolitano. A towering Italian statesman, with a strong European heart," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on X.

She praised him as "an anchor of stability" for Italy in difficult times and said Napolitano was deeply convinced that a united Europe was in the interests of Italians.

EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also hailed Napolitano's efforts in the post-war history of Italy.

"He put his political passion at the service of Italian and European institutions with rigour and courage. We will miss his stimulus, but we are left with his teaching, a beacon for all reformists," he wrote on X and shared a picture with him.

Pope Francis shared a telegram message, offering his condolences.

"The death of your husband, Senator Giorgio Napolitano, has moved me and triggered feelings of gratitude for this statesman who, in the exercise of his high institutional duties, manifested great gifts of intellect and sincere passion for Italian political life as well as a keen interest in the fate of nations," the pope wrote, addressed to Napolitano's wife, Clio Bittoni.

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