Martini's body was laid out Saturday in Milan cathedral for people to pay their respects, Italy's ANSA News Agency reported.
"The death of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini is an event that generates great emotion well beyond the confines of the albeit vast archdiocese of Milan, which he headed for 22 years," said the director of the Vatican press office, the Rev. Federico Lombardi. "He was a bishop who with his word, his numerous written works, his innovative pastoral initiatives managed to witness to and announce effectively the Christian faith to the men of our time, earning the esteem and respect of people near and far."
Martini, a member of the Jesuit religious order, was outspoken on the church recognizing errors it has made moving forward on a path of change, the BBC reported.
"Our culture has grown old, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up, our religious rites and the vestments we wear are pompous," Martini said in his last interview in August.
The cause of death was not reported. Martini's funeral is scheduled for Monday.