- Johannes Willebrands
Johannes Gerardus Maria Willebrands (
September 4, 1909– August 2, 2006) was a Dutch Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unityfrom 1969 to 1989, and Archbishop of Utrechtfrom 1975 to 1983. Elevated to the cardinalate in 1969, Willebrands was central to the increased ecumenism of the Church in the second half of the 20th century, and was considered " papabile" at the two conclaves held in 1978.
Johannes Willebrands was born in
Bovenkarspel, as the eldest of the nine children of Herman and Afra (née Kok) Willebrands. His father worked as a paymaster at the local vegetable market, and one of his brothers went on to become a Redemptorist missionaryin Surinam. Willebrands studied at the seminaryat Warmondnear Leiden, where he was ordained to the priesthood on May 26, 1934. He studied for a doctoratein philosophyat the Pontifical Athenaeum "Angelicum" in Rome, writing his thesison John Henry Newman.
Willebrands returned to the
Netherlandsin 1937 and acted as chaplainof the Church of Begijnhof in Amsterdam. In 1940 he began teaching philosophy at his alma materof the Warmond seminary. Five years later, he became the seminary's rector. Willebrands demonstrated a very active interest in the cause of Christian unity as president of the St Willibrord Association, which promoted ecumenismin the Netherlands; in 1951, he organized the Catholic Conference on Ecumenical Questions, which was in contact with the World Council of Churches.
June 28, 1960, Pope John XXIIInominated him Secretary of the newly established Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity (later elevated to a pontifical council), under the direction of Augustin Bea. Aided by fluency in six languages, Willebrands was involved in building bridges to the Anglicanchurch, and the Russian Orthodoxchurch. He was instrumental in persuading the Orthodox churches to attend the sessions of the Second Vatican Councilas observers while it met from 1962 to 1965. During the work of the Second Vatican Council, he prepared the documents relating to scripture and tradition, ecumenism, religious freedom, and relations with non-Christian religions. Willebrands was raised to the rank of Monsignorin 1963.
He was named Titular Bishop of "Mauriana" on
June 4, 1964. Willebrands received his episcopal consecration on the following June 28 from Pope Paul VIhimself, with Archbishops Diego Venini and Ettore Cunialserving as co-consecrators, in St. Peter's Basilica. On December 7, 1965, he read out the declaration by which the Catholic and Orthodox churches "cancelled out of the memory of men" their mutual excommunicationfollowing the Great Schism of 1054.
April 12, 1969, Pope Paul VInamed Willebrands as President of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, succeeding Cardinal Bea after his death. He was created Cardinal Deacon of " Santi Cosma e Damiano" by Paul VI in the consistoryof April 28, 1969, and later became Cardinal Priest of " S. Sebastiano alle Catacombe" on December 6, 1975.infobox cardinalstyles
cardinal name=Johannes Willebrands
December 6, 1975, he was appointed Archbishop of Utrechtand thus Primate of the Netherlands, continuing at the same time to serve as President of the Secretariat. It was hoped that would be able to use his diplomatic talents to reconcile the conservative and liberal wings of the Catholic Church in the Netherlands [Time Magazine. [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,947620-1,00.html Paul's Flying Dutchman] January 5, 1976] , but the qualities of patience, reticence and reservation that made him such a success in ecumenical circles did not endear him to his Dutch flock. He later resigned as Archbishop on December 3, 1983.
Willebrands was one of the cardinal electors who participated at the conclaves of August and October 1978, which selected
Pope John Paul Iand Pope John Paul II, respectively. During the latter conclave, the highly " papabile" Dutch prelate willingly withdrew his candidacy in order for Karol Cardinal Wojtyła to be elected pope[Time Magazine. [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,912229-5,00.html A "Foreign" Pope] October 30, 1978] .
After his resignation as Archbishop of Utrecht, Willebrands continued as President for Promoting Christian Unity. The Secretariat began to lose much of its authority and freedom of action as it came into the orbit of
Cardinal Ratzingerat the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Willebrands acted as President Delegate at the Second Extraordinary Assembly of World Synod of Bishops, held from 24 Novemberto 8 December 1985, and was made President emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity on 12 December 1989, when was succeeded as President by Edward Idris Cassidy.
Cardinal Willebrands moved to the
Franciscan conventof Saint Nicolaasstichtingat Denekampin 1997, where he died nine years later, at age 96. At the time of his death, he was the oldest living member of the College of Cardinals.
*He supported Fr. Edward Schillebeeckx, OP, in his doctrinal disagreements with Rome [Time Magazine. [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,947143-2,00.html Not Quite a "Heresy"]
December 24, 1979] [Time Magazine. [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,924669,00.html Not Heresy] January 19, 1981] .
* [http://www.catholic-pages.com/hierarchy/cardinals_bio.asp?ref=15 Catholic-pages bio]
* [http://www.nos.nl/nos/artikelen/2006/08/art000001C6B60F999D59CD.html Death notice for Johannes Willebrands] nl icon
* [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;jsessionid=TNY40GFIX1KTFQFIQMFCFFOAVCBQYIV0?view=DETAILS&grid=&xml=/news/2006/08/03/db0302.xml Obituary] , "
The Daily Telegraph", 3 August 2006
* [http://news.independent.co.uk/people/obituaries/article1212762.ece Obituary] , "
The Independent", 4 August 2006
* [http://www.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/story/0,,1836803,00.html Obituary] , "
The Guardian", 4 August 2006
* [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,60-2301763,00.html Obituary] , "
The Times", 7 August 2006
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