Johannes Willebrands


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 Unity from 1969 to 1989, and Archbishop of Utrecht from 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.

Biography

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 missionary in Surinam. Willebrands studied at the seminary at Warmond near Leiden, where he was ordained to the priesthood on May 26, 1934. He studied for a doctorate in philosophy at the Pontifical Athenaeum "Angelicum" in Rome, writing his thesis on John Henry Newman.

Willebrands returned to the Netherlands in 1937 and acted as chaplain of the Church of Begijnhof in Amsterdam. In 1940 he began teaching philosophy at his alma mater of 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 ecumenism in the Netherlands; in 1951, he organized the Catholic Conference on Ecumenical Questions, which was in contact with the World Council of Churches.

On June 28, 1960, Pope John XXIII nominated 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 Anglican church, and the Russian Orthodox church. He was instrumental in persuading the Orthodox churches to attend the sessions of the Second Vatican Council as 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 Monsignor in 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 VI himself, with Archbishops Diego Venini and Ettore Cunial serving 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 excommunication following the Great Schism of 1054.

On April 12, 1969, Pope Paul VI named 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 consistory of April 28, 1969, and later became Cardinal Priest of "S. Sebastiano alle Catacombe" on December 6, 1975.infobox cardinalstyles
cardinal name=Johannes Willebrands
dipstyle=His Eminence
offstyle=Your Eminence
See=Utrecht|
On December 6, 1975, he was appointed Archbishop of Utrecht and 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 I and 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 Ratzinger at 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 November to 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 convent of Saint Nicolaasstichting at Denekamp in 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.

Trivia

*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] .

References

External links

* [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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