UPDATED: Europe mourns EU parliament leader Sassoli, State funeral to be held on Friday

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European Parliament President David Sassoli will have state funeral on Friday at 12 in the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, in Piazza della Repubblica in Rome.

Sassoli’s body will lie in state at Rome city hall from 10.00 to 18.00 on Thursday.

The presidents of the European Commission and the European Council – Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel – will attend the funeral.

The European parliament is to organise a commemorative ceremony  on 17 January at the opening of the plenary session in Strasbourg.

Leading EU figures have paid tributes to Sassoli, who has died at the age of 65.

The Italian former journalist and centre-left politician had been seriously ill for more than two weeks and cancelled all official activities.

Mr Sassoli was admitted to hospital in Italy last month due to a serious complication with his immune system.

His role is seen as one of the EU’s top jobs, and includes overseeing parliament’s activities.

“Today is a sad day for Europe. Our Union loses a passionate European, a sincere democrat and a good man,” said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, in a video statement, part of which she also read in Italian.

“David Sassoli was a man of deep faith and strong convictions. Everyone loved his smile and his kindness, yet he knew how to fight for what he believed in.”

As head of the executive arm, von der Leyen was in constant touch with Sassoli to move forward legislative proposals her team drafted through the hemicycle the Italian presided over.

“He wanted Europe to be more united, closer to its people, more faithful to our values. That is his legacy,” she remarked with solemnity. “And that is how I will remember him. As a champion of justice and solidarity, and a dear friend.”

Frans Timmermans, the Commission’s vice-president and fellow socialist, said he was “at loss for words” by the tragic news and celebrated his kindness as “an inspiration to all who knew him.”

“Addio amico mio,” Timmermans added.

EU flags in Brussels have been lowered to fly at half-mast in his memory. Leaders and officials from around Europe have been reflecting on his life and work.

European flags are lowered to half mast in front of the seat of the European Commission in commemoration of late European Parliament President David Sassoli, at EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET

Many of the tributes were made in Italian, reflecting Mr Sassoli’s linguistic preference despite the predominance of English and French in EU business.

Our union loses an Italian patriot, a great European and an indefatigable humanist,” said French President Emmanuel Macron.

The German leader, Olaf Scholz, said that Europe “has lost a committed parliament president, Italy a savvy politician and Germany a good friend”.

Today a minute of silence was observed in Germany at the first session of the year of Bundestag, at the request of the president of the German parliament, Baerbel Bas: “He was a president of parliament capable of concluding compromises while defending democracy“, said Bas introducing the session.” He was an indomitable defender of European values ​​- he continued -. In the most controversial issues, he has always been able to keep in mind that in the search for political solutions, the fate of individuals must never be forgotten”.

Dozens of members of the European Parliament gathered on the steps of the building in Brussels for a minute’s silence to remember him, followed by a round of applause.

Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi called him a “profound European, a passionate journalist” and “a symbol of balance, humanity and generosity.” In his native Florence, the town hall’s flag is at half-mast and here in Rome, his body will lie in state on Thursday.

Main Photo – A small desk with a condolence book for late European Parliament President David Sassoli is prepared next to the plenary room at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium. David Sassoli, the Italian journalist who worked his way up in politics and became president of the European Union’s parliament, died at a hospital in Italy early 11 January 2022, his spokesperson said. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET

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