"Because He Was a German!" Cardinal Bea and the Origins of Roman Catholic Engagement in the Ecumenical Movement

By Dulles, Avery Cardinal | The Catholic Historical Review, April 2007 | Go to article overview

"Because He Was a German!" Cardinal Bea and the Origins of Roman Catholic Engagement in the Ecumenical Movement


Dulles, Avery Cardinal, The Catholic Historical Review


"Because He Was a German!" Cardinal Bea and the Origins of Roman Catholic Engagement in the Ecumenical Movement. By Jerome-Michael Vereb, C.E (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 2006. Pp. xxvii, 332. $35.00.)

Rather than being another biography of Cardinal Augustin Bea, this book is a specialized study of the connections between the German ecumenical movement after World War II and establishment of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity in the spring of 1960. Jerome-Michael Vereb, a former member of the staff of the secretariat (as it was then called), explains how the adversities of the Hitler years brought Protestants and Catholics together and aroused in some of them ardent hopes for an eventual reunion. In particular Vereb discusses the work of Archbishop (later Cardinal) Lorenz Jaeger of Paderborn, who relied heavily on the staff of the Johann Adam Möhler Institute at the Paderborn seminary. Another priest of the archdiocese, Monsignor Josef Hofer, providentially stationed in Rome, helped Bea to sort out the apparent discrepancies in Pius XII's teaching on church membership in the encyclicals Mystici Corporis and Mediator Dei. This problem was a major ecumenical issue, and drew much attention at the Council.

The idea of a Roman office responsible for ecumenical affairs was already broached by Patriarch Maximos TV Saigh in a letter to Pope John XXIII on May 23, 1959, but the letter, passed on to the prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches, Eugène Cardinal Tisserent, was ignored. A further stimulus came from the so-called Rhodes incident of August 1959. Two Catholic priests, Johannes Willebrands and Christophe Dumont, were present as "journalists" at a meeting of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches. When the two Catholics invited some members of the Orthodox representative to a friendly social meeting, the invitation was interpreted in World Council circles as an attempt to entice the Orthodox to abandon their membership in the World Council. …

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