Johannes Gerardus Maria Cardinal Willebrands † Johannes Gerardus Maria Cardinal Willebrands †
Function:
Archbishop Emeritus of Utrecht, Netherlands
Title:
Cardinal Priest of S Sebastiano alle Catacombe
Birthdate:
Sept 04, 1909
Country:
Netherlands
Elevated:
Apr 28, 1969
More information:
www.catholic-hierarchy.org
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Spanish Entierran al cardenal holandés Johannes Willebrands en Utrecht
Aug 09, 2006
El cardenal holandés Johannes Willebrands fue enterrado hoy en el cementerio Santa Bárbara de Utrecht (centro de Holanda), tras un funeral en la catedral Santa Catharina al que asistieron altos dignatarios religiosos y mundiales.

(Terra Actualidad – EFE, 08-08-2006) El cardenal alemán y presidente del Consejo Pontificio para la Unidad de los Cristianos, Walter Kasper, ofició el funeral por Willebrands, que falleció el pasado miércoles a los 96 años en un monasterio en la localidad de Denekamp (noreste).

Willebrands, antiguo arzobispo de Utrecht, fue presidente del Consejo Pontificio para la Unidad de los Cristianos de 1969 a 1989.

Kasper elogió al cardenal fallecido como 'uno de los primeros artífices de la participación católica en el movimiento ecuménico', según informó la agencia holandesa ANP.

'Al escuchar y dialogar intentó romper antiguos muros de desconfianza o de rivalidad, establecer nuevas relaciones de reconocimiento mutuo y un trato creciente entre los cristianos de todas las tradiciones', añadió.

Kasperk recordó que Willebrands 'no era un hombre de muchas palabras, pero destacó que tuvo muchos amigos judíos en varios países y pidió a los asistentes al funeral que rezasen por ellos.

El obispo griego Maximos de Evmenia del patriarcado ecuménico de Constantinopla puso punto final al funeral, al que asistieron, además de representantes de distintas iglesias, el primer ministro holandés, Jan Peter Balkenende, y el ministro de Justicia, Piet Hein Donner.

Willebrands fue enterrado en el cementerio de Santa Bárbara, junto a las tumbas de sus predecesores en el arzobispado de Utrecht, los cardenales Jan de Jong y Bernard Alfrink.
English Protestants lead tributes to Catholic ecumenist who honoured Luther
Aug 08, 2006
Messages of gratitude and respect have poured in from the world’s Christian communities and from those of other faith traditions for Dutch Catholic ecumenist Cardinal Johannes Willebrands, who has died at the age of 96.

(ekklesia.co.uk, 05/08/06) Cardinal Willebrands worked hard throughout his life to improve relations among Roman Catholics and other Christians, as well as with the Jewish community – and it was a senior Protestant ecumenical chief and the head of the world Lutheran body who led the tributes to him.

Declared World Council of Churches general secretary, the Rev Dr Samuel Kobia, himself a Methodist from Kenya: “With the passing of Johannes Gerardus Maria Cardinal Willebrands the Catholic Church, and all churches, have lost an honourable and devoted servant of the Gospel and of the cause of Christian unity.”

For almost 30 years, Willebrands was a key Vatican figure in efforts to promote Christian unity, and was nicknamed ‘the Flying Dutchman’ on account of his travels to bring different denominations closer together, noted Ecumenical News International in Geneva.

He especially broke fresh ground in 1983, at celebrations in the then East Germany to mark the 500th anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther. There Cardinal Willebrands hailed the German theologian whose break with the papacy inaugurated the Protestant Reformation as “a religious genius” – though acknowledging wrongs on all sides, including the slaughter of Anabaptists.

In response, the general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the Rev Dr Ishmael Noko, honoured the great contribution of the Dutch Cardinal this week.

In a letter of condolence to Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPU) President Walter Cardinal Kasper, Dr Noko expressed his appreciation and respect for "the special quality of spiritual warmth and personal commitment to the cause of unity for which Cardinal Willebrands was so well known also in the Lutheran world."

The Lutheran leaders particularly noted “the strong mutual confidence” that has been established over the years between the PCPCU, and its predecessor bodies, and the LWF. “It is clear that our current ecumenical work stands in a tradition of more than forty years to which our predecessors have all contributed their parts,” he added.

Willebrands was born on 4 September 1909 in the Netherlands. He was ordained into priesthood in 1934, and was named bishop in 1964. He was created a Roman Catholic Cardinal in 1969, the same year he was appointed president of the then Vatican's Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. He led the secretariat until his retirement in 1989, a year after Pope John Paul II renamed it the PCPCU.

The international bilateral dialogue between Lutherans and Roman Catholics led to the October 1999 landmark signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by representatives of the LWF and the PCPCU.

Dr Noko said that his prayer was that the memory of Willebrands would serve “as an inspiration for present and future ecumenists and leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ”, reported Lutheran World Information (LWI), the LWF’s news service.

Cardinal Johannes Gerardus Maria Willebrands, who was emeritus-president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU), died on 2 August 2006 in the Netherlands.
German LWB-Generalsekretär würdigt niederländischen Kardinal Johannes Willebrands
Aug 08, 2006
Ehemaliger Präsident des Päpstlichen Einheitsrates verstorben

Genf, 7. August 2006 (LvWI) – Der Generalsekretär des Lutherischen Weltbundes (LWB), Pfr. Dr. Ishmael Noko, hat den grossen Beitrag des niederländischen Kardinals Johannes Willebrands zur Einheit unter den Kirchen und mit dem jüdischen Volk gewürdigt. Kardinal Willebrands, ehemaliger Präsident des Päpstlichen Rates zur Förderung der Einheit der Christen, verstarb am 2. August in den Niederlanden im Alter von 96 Jahren.

In einem Kondolenzschreiben an den Präsidenten des Einheitsrates, Kardinal Walter Kasper, brachte Noko seine Wertschätzung und seinen Respekt für „die besondere spirituelle Wärme und die persönliche Hingabe für das Anliegen der Einheit, für die Kardinal Willebrands auch in der lutherischen Welt so bekannt war“, zum Ausdruck.

Der Generalsekretär strich vor allem das „starke gegenseitige Vertrauen“ heraus, das im Laufe der Jahre zwischen dem Einheitsrat und seinen Vorläufern und dem LWB entstanden sei. „Unsere momentane ökumenische Arbeit steht in einer über 40-jährigen Tradition, zu der unsere VorgängerInnen alle ihren Teil beigetragen haben“, so Noko.

Johannes Willebrands wurde am 4. September 1909 in den Niederlanden geboren und 1934 ordiniert sowie 1964 zum Bischof geweiht. 1969 wurde er zum Kardinal und zum Präsidenten des Sekretariats zur Förderung der Einheit der Christen ernannt. Das Sekretariat leitete er bis zu seiner Pensionierung 1989, ein Jahr, nachdem Papst Johannes Paul II. es in den Päpstlichen Rat zur Förderung der Einheit der Christen umbenannte.

Der internationale bilaterale Dialog zwischen lutherischen und römisch-katholischen ChristInnen führte am 31. Oktober 1999 zur Unterzeichnung der Gemeinsamen Erklärung zur Rechtfertigungslehre (GE) durch VertreterInnen des LWB und des Päpstlichen Einheitsrates, was als ein ökumenischer Meilenstein angesehen wird.

Er hoffe, so Noko, dass das Andenken Willebrands‘ „als Inspiration für heutige und zukünftige ökumenische und leitende VertreterInnen der Kirche Jesu Christi“ diene.
French Johannes Willebrands
Aug 07, 2006
Le cardinal néerlandais Johannes Willebrands, ancien archevêque d'Utrecht (siège primatial des Pays-Bas), grande figure du concile Vatican II (1962-1965) et du rapprochement oecuménique, est mort, mercredi 2 août, à l'âge de 96 ans.

(LE MONDE, 04.08.06) Né le 4 septembre 1909 près d'Amsterdam, le jeune prêtre Johannes Willebrands se passionne très tôt, à l'université Angelicum de Rome, pour la pensée d'Henry Newman, cardinal anglais de l'époque victorienne converti de l'anglicanisme. Sa passion pour l'oecuménisme naît. Elle ne le quittera plus. Aux Pays-Bas d'abord, où les souffrances dues à la guerre ont rapproché catholiques et protestants.

A Rome ensuite, où, dès 1960, il est appelé à collaborer avec le cardinal Augustin Béa, jésuite allemand, "père" du secrétariat pour l'unité des chrétiens. Les deux hommes forment une équipe soudée,, et l'amitié de Johannes Willebrands avec son compatriote, le docteur Visser't Hooft, secrétaire général du Conseil oecuménique des Eglises (Genève), contribue déjà à un dégel spectaculaire des relations entre catholiques et protestants.

Pendant le concile, Mgr Willebrands fait partie de l'aile réformatrice. Il a mené des négociations serrées avec les orthodoxes, les anglicans et les luthériens pour qu'ils participent à Vatican II. Il se bat, contre la minorité conservatrice, pour faire approuver les textes reconnaissant la liberté religieuse, invitant l'Eglise au dialogue avec les autres religions chrétiennes, avec les juifs et autres confessions non chrétiennes. En 1969, c'est lui qui succédera naturellement au cardinal Bea à la tête du secrétariat pour l'unité, devenu depuis le conseil pontifical pour la promotion de l'unité des chrétiens. Il y restera jusqu'à sa retraite en 1989.

Au Vatican, on le surnomme le "Hollandais volant", tant il multiplie les voyages oecuméniques. C'est lui qui prépare la rencontre historique entre le pape Paul VI et Athenagoras, patriarche de Constantinople, en janvier 1964 à Jérusalem. L'année suivante, il mène la délégation du Vatican au Phanar d'Istanbul afin de traiter avec les orthodoxes la levée des anathèmes entre deux Eglises divisées depuis 1054.

REPRISE EN MAIN

Mgr Willebrands travaille aussi à Canterbury (Angleterre) pour le rapprochement avec les anglicans, puis célèbre, à la surprise générale, lors d'un congrès de la Fédération luthérienne mondiale, le "courage" et l'"honnêteté" de Martin Luther, le père de la Réforme. Il accompagne Paul VI (1963-1978) dans tous ses voyages et est promu cardinal en 1969. Il recevra même des voix lors des deux conclaves de 1978 qui ont élu Jean Paul Ier et Jean Paul II.

La tâche la plus difficile de cet homme modéré sera toutefois de succéder au cardinal Alfrink, en 1975, comme archevêque d'Utrecht, à la tête de l'Eglise des Pays-Bas, l'une des plus secouées et divisées par Vatican II. Cherchant l'équilibre entre les traditionalistes et les progressistes, il s'acquitte difficilement de cette tâche aux yeux du Vatican, pour qui il n'est pas assez ferme et qui préfère soutenir le très conservateur Mgr Gijsen.

L'affaire du "catéchisme hollandais" divise tout le monde catholique. L'un des premiers actes de Jean Paul II sera d'ailleurs de réunir en synode spécial à Rome tous les évêques des Pays-Bas. Ce sera le début d'une reprise en main contre laquelle Johannes Willebrands, qui cumule ses fonctions romaine et hollandaise (jusqu'en 1983), ne pourra plus s'opposer.
English Dutch Cardinal Johannes Willebrands dies
Aug 05, 2006
Cardinal Johannes Willebrands, a key figure in the Roman Catholic Church's efforts to improve relations with other Christians and Jews, has died at age 96.

(Associated Press, August 2, 2006) THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- Willebrands was known at the Vatican as "The Flying Dutchman" for his travels promoting Christian unity. He died Tuesday night, the Dutch Catholic Church announced Wednesday.

As president of the Vatican's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, Willebrands long sought to improve troubled relations between the faiths. He also was mentioned as a possible candidate for the papacy at the two conclaves of 1978.

In the 1980s, he called for more Jewish teachers at Catholic theological institutes to expand the study of Judaism.

Willebrands was named president of the Vatican's Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity in 1969 and held the post for 20 years. The secretariat was renamed the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity by Pope John Paul II in 1988.

"I especially value him as a bishop who before, during and after the Second Vatican Council worked energetically and expertly for the restoration of Christian unity," said Dutch Cardinal Adrianus Simonis, who succeeded Willebrands as Archbishop of Utrecht and chairman of the Dutch Bishops Conference.

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, in a letter to Simonis, described Willebrands as "a tireless bridge builder" between Catholics, other Christians and Jews.

Dutch bishops also praised his efforts to promote church unity, saying, "Many non-Catholic church leaders will today remember a partner in ecumenical discussions and a personal friend."

One of nine children of a Dutch auctioneer, Willebrands became a priest in 1934. Considered a gifted student, he was sent to Rome to study at the Angelicum Pontifical University. He was named a bishop in 1964 by Pope Paul VI.

Willebrands served as Archbishop of Utrecht from 1975-1983. During that time, Dutch Catholics struggled with a growing rift between conservatives and liberals and an increase in secularization.

After retiring from that position, he moved back to Rome, where he continued to serve as president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity until his 80th birthday.

His health failing, Willebrands moved in 1997 to a convent in Denekamp in the eastern Netherlands, where he was tended by Franciscan nuns until his death.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.
English Cardinal Willebrands, ecumenical pioneer, dead at 96
Aug 05, 2006
Cardinal Johannes Willebrands, a leading Catholic figure in ecumenical affairs in the years after Vatican II, died August 1 at a nursing home in the Netherlands.

Aug. 02 (CWNews.com) - At the age of 96, Cardinal Willebrands had been the oldest living member of the College of Cardinals. (That distinction is now held by Cardinal Alfons Stickler, the retired Vatican archivist, whose 96th birthday will be August 23.)

Cardinal Willebrands had served for nearly 30 years in the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. He was named secretary of that Council in 1960 when it was first established by Pope John XXIII, and promoted by Pope Paul VI to become the Council's president in 1969. He resigned that post in December 1989. He also served as Archbishop of Utrecht from 1975 to 1983. He was raised to the College of Cardinals by Pope Paul in 1975.

Born in September 1909, Johannes Willebrands was ordained to the priesthood in 1934 and consecrated a bishop in 1960 with his appointment to the post in the Roman Curia. He participated in the Second Vatican Council, playing an important role in the development of statements on ecumenism, and helped to arrange the historic meeting between Pope Paul and the Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras in 1964.

Known as "the Flying Dutchman" because of his frequent travel to confer with other religious leaders, Cardinal Willebrands was a zealous controversial proponent of closer ties with other Christian bodies. That role sometimes drew him into debates over the interpretation of Catholic teachings, and his years at the head of the Utrecht archdiocese-- at a time of serious disputes among Catholics in the Netherlands over doctrinal and liturgical questions-- added to controversy that surrounded him.

Pope Benedict XVI paid tribute to Cardinal Willebrands in a message to Cardinal Adrianus Simonis, his successor as Archbishop of Utrecht. The Pope described the deceased prelate as "a tireless pastor in service to the People of God and the unity of the Church," who gave "new life to ecumenical dialogue." He prayed that God would "welcome into the peace of his Kingdom this faithful servant of the Word and of brotherhood among Christians."

In a separate telegram to Cardinal Walter Kasper, the current president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, the Pope said: "I give thanks to the Lord for all the work done by the cardinal his ecumenical relations, of which he was an ardent advocate from the beginning of his priestly ministry." The Holy Father said that he prays the work of the late Dutch cardinal will bear fruit.
English AJC Mourns Passing of Cardinal Willebrands, Catholic-Jewish Relations Pioneer
Aug 05, 2006
The American Jewish Committee mourns the passing of Dutch Cardinal Johannes Willebrands, one of the leading architects of the positive revolution in Catholic-Jewish relations. He was 96 years old.

(ajc.org) August 3, 2006 – New York – “Under Cardinal Willebrands’ leadership the Catholic-Jewish relationship was institutionalized in a way we take for granted today,” said Rabbi David Rosen, AJC’s international director of interreligious relations. “He was the captain of the Catholic-Jewish ship and steered its significant voyage in the transition from the pontificate of Paul VI to the remarkable pontification of John Paul II.”



AJC worked closely with Cardinal Willebrands in the years leading up to the landmark 1965 Catholic declaration, Nostra Aetate, which fundamentally changed Catholic teachings about and dealings with the Jewish people.



Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, who at the time was head of AJC’s interreligious affairs department, was central to those interactions. In 1963, Cardinal Willebrands visited AJC headquarters in New York to meet with Rabbi Tanenbaum. “The Jewish people preserve special values, very important and precious and they are of permanent meaning,” Cardinal Willebrands told Rabbi Tanenbaum. “The Jewish people and Judaism have a permanent mission in the world, and we must work together side-by-side to serve God’s people.”



Both before and after Nostra Aetate, Cardinal Willebrands was instrumental in fostering improved relations with Jewish leaders, and met regularly with AJC at the Vatican. In 1974, he was appointed the first president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, and in that capacity continued to interact with AJC’s interreligious leadership.



“With Cardinal Willebrands’ death, we are witnessing the passing of the pioneering generation of Catholic leaders who broke new ground with Vatican Council II, Nostra Aetate. They led the enduring and significant follow-up in positive relations with the Jewish people, as well as the establishment of Vatican diplomatic relations with Israel,” said Rabbi James Rudin, AJC’s senior intereligious affairs adviser, and former director of the department.
French Décès du cardinal Willebrands, pionnier de l'ścuménisme, à l'âge de 96 ans
Aug 05, 2006
Le pape fait mémoire d'un homme engagé pour l'unité des chrétiens

Rome, 3 août 2006 (Apic) Le pape Benoît XVI a fait part de sa tristesse mercredi à l'annonce du décès du cardinal Johannes Willebrands, pionnier de l'ścuménisme, à l'âge de 96 ans. Le cardinal néerlandais était président émérite du Conseil pontifical pour la promotion de l'unité des chrétiens à Rome.

Dans son message envoyé au cardinal Walter Kasper, actuel président du Conseil pontifical pour la promotion de l'unité des chrétiens, et au cardinal Adrianus Johannes Simonis, archevêque d'Utrecht, aux Pays-Bas, le pape fait part de sa peine et les assure de sa prière et de sa proximité spirituelle. Le cardinal Willebrands est né le 4 septembre 1909 à Bovenkarspel, dans le diocèse de Haarlem. Il a été fait cardinal par le pape Paul VI lors du consistoire du 28 avril 1969.

Benoît XVI dans son télégramme remercie le cardinal défunt "pour tout le travail accompli dans les relations ścuméniques, dont il fut un ardent promoteur depuis les débuts de son sacerdoce et de manière éminente au lendemain du Concile ścuménique Vatican II". Le pape relève encore que le cardinal Willebrands contribua à développer et à intensifier le dialogue entre toutes les Eglises et communautés ecclésiales.

Dans son adresse au cardinal Adrianus Johannes Simonis – le cardinal Willebrands fut son prédécesseur sur le siège d’Utrecht – le pape "rend grâce pour ce pasteur infatigable au service du peuple de Dieu et de l’unité de l’Eglise, qui fut appelé par mon prédécesseur Paul VI pour donner un nouvel élan au dialogue ścuménique".

Le cardinal Willebrands a dirigé de 1969 à 1989 le Conseil pontifical pour la promotion de l'unité des chrétiens, mais il fut auparavant secrétaire du SPUC, le Secrétariat du Vatican pour la promotion de l'unité des chrétiens créé en juin 1960 par le pape Jean XXIII. Il est décédé dans la nuit de mercredi au monastère franciscain de Denekamp aux Pays-Bas . Il a été l'un des plus ardents défenseurs du rapprochement avec les Eglises protestantes et orthodoxes au sein du Collège des cardinaux dont il était le doyen d'âge, et a śuvré pour le rapprochement avec les juifs.

Pionnier de l'ścuménisme, le cardinal Willebrands s'engagea pour le rapprochement des Eglises dès les années 50. Il fonda ainsi en 1951 la "Conférence catholique pour les questions oecuméniques". A 96 ans, il était le plus vieux cardinal de l'Eglise catholique. Après sa mort, il y a désormais dans le monde 190 cardinaux, dont 120 ont moins de 80 ans, et ainsi pouvant participer à une éventuelle élection pontificale. Le plus vieux cardinal est actuellement l'Autrichien Alfons Maria Stickler, qui a 95 ans.
French Le cardinal Jean Willebrands est décédé
Aug 02, 2006
Bâtisseur du dialogue pour l’Unité des chrétiens, le cardinal Jean Willebrands, président émérite du Conseil pontifical pour la promotion de l’Unité des chrétiens, est décédé le mercredi 2 août à l’âge de 96 ans aux Pays-Bas.

(cef.fr, 2 août 2006) Benoît XVI a adressé un télégramme de condoléances au cardinal Walter Kasper, président du dicastère, et à Mgr Adrianus-Johannes Simonis, archevêque d’Utrecht (Pays-Bas).

Le cardinal Jean Willebrands, président émérite du Conseil pontifical pour la promotion de l’Unité des chrétiens, est décédé le mercredi 2 août à l’âge de 96 ans.

Il était le cardinal le plus âgé des cardinaux de l’Église catholique. Né le 4 septembre 1909 dans une famille de 9 enfants à Bovenkarspel aux Pays-bas, ordonné prêtre le 26 mai 1934, il avait été secrétaire de la promotion pour l’Unité des chrétiens en juin 1960 avant de devenir évêque de Mauriana puis président pour la Promotion de l’Unité des chrétiens (1969-1989).

Le cardinal Willebrands avait été archevêque d’Utrecht (Pays-Bas) du 6 décembre 1975 au 3 décembre 1983. Durant le concile Vatican II, il avait été un artisan des documents sur les religions non chrétiennes (décret Unitatis Redintegratio)
Italian Il cordoglio del Papa per la morte del cardinale Willebrands: ha dato slancio all'ecumenismo
Aug 02, 2006
Lutto nella Chiesa cattolica: è morto stamane il cardinale olandese Johannes Willebrands: aveva 96 anni. Presidente emerito del Pontificio Consiglio per la Promozione dell’Unità dei Cristiani, il porporato è stato uno dei protagonisti dell’ecumenismo. Benedetto XVI lo ricorda in due telegrammi inviati al cardinale Adrianus Johannes Simonis, arcivescovo di Utrecht, e al cardinale Walter Kasper, presidente del Pontificio Consiglio per la Promozione dell’Unità dei Cristiani: il Papa, esprimendo il suo cordoglio, ringrazia il Signore “per questo pastore infaticabile al servizio del Popolo di Dio e dell’unità della Chiesa” che ha dato “un nuovo slancio al dialogo ecumenico”.

(2 agosto 2006 - Radio Vaticana) Nato a Bovenkarspel, nei Paesi Bassi, nel 1909, il cardinale Willebrands avrebbe compiuto 97 anni il 4 settembre prossimo. Ordinato sacerdote a 24 anni, ha compiuto gli studi presso la facoltà di Filosofia del Pontificio Ateneo Angelicum di Roma. Docente di Filosofia e poi rettore del Seminario Maggiore di Warmond, in Olanda, mostra subito un vivo interesse per la causa dell'unione dei cristiani organizzando nel 1951 la conferenza cattolica per la questioni ecumeniche. Nel 1958 l'episcopato olandese lo designa delegato per le attività ecumeniche e due anni più tardi Giovanni XXIII lo nomina segretario dell'appena costituito Segretariato per l'Unione dei Cristiani, che durante i lavori del Concilio Vaticano II s'occupò - sotto la guida del cardinale Bea - della preparazione dei documenti relativi all'ecumenismo, alla libertà religiosa e ai rapporti con le religioni non cristiane. Consacrato vescovo nel 1964, promuove un gran numero di iniziative per rendere più intenso il dialogo tra la Chiesa cattolica e le altre Chiese cristiane, contattando in particolare ortodossi, anglicani e luterani. Nell’aprile 1969 Paolo VI lo nomina presidente del Segretariato per l'Unione dei Cristiani creandolo poco dopo cardinale. Nel 1975 diventa arcivescovo di Utrecht e Primate d'Olanda, continuando nello stesso tempo a presiedere il Segretariato per l'Unione dei Cristiani. È stato presidente della Conferenza Episcopale Olandese e anche vicario castrense per i Paesi Bassi. Dal 1989 è presidente emerito del Pontificio Consiglio per la Promozione dell’Unità dei Cristiani. È stato anche Camerlengo del Collegio Cardinalizio.

I funerali del cardinale Willebrands dovrebbero svolgersi l’8 agosto nella Cattedrale di Utrecht: a rappresentare il Papa ci sarà il cardinale Walter Kasper, attuale presidente del Pontificio Consiglio per la Promozione dell'Unità dei Cristiani.

Ma riascoltiamo la voce del cardinale Willebrands in una intervista rilasciata al programma tedesco della Radio Vaticana nel 1989:

Die Liebe, die Christus von Petrus gefragt hat, beschränkt sich nicht …
“L’amore che Cristo ha chiesto a Pietro, non è circoscritto ad un gruppo, nemmeno alla Chiesa cattolica: tutti sono sue pecorelle. E per questo, l’amore è rivolto a tutti i cristiani, e questo amore chiede prima di tutto l’unità, perché è una grande sofferenza quando una famiglia è divisa. In questo spirito io ho inteso il mio nuovo compito e l’ho svolto con tutto il cuore e con tutte le forze – spirituali e materiali – che Dio mi ha dato; il Signore mi ha benedetto e Gli sono profondamente riconoscente per essersi servito così a lungo della mia opera per la Sua Chiesa”.
English Portrait of an Ecumenist by Charles J. Manders
Nov 29, 2004
"Has not the Second Vatican Council itself accepted the requirements expressed amongst others by Luther and through which quite a few aspects of the Christian Faith are being expressed better today than in the past? Luther has in an extraordinary way made a new starting point for theology and Christian life for the times coming."

(December 1978) "There ought to be a mentality in the Church which is in harmony with the Second Vatican Council- in the Church's life the work of this Council should prevail, and we must take into account the fruits of the experiments made and the questions which derive from present circumstances."

THESE words were spoken by Cardinal Willebrands, President of the Conference of Dutch Bishops in his opening speech to the Third Pastoral Council in The Netherlands on October 17, 1978.

The cardinal continued: "Pope John Paul II considers the text of the Council's Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, as the Magna Charta of the Church, which text is supplemented by the pastoral constitution, Gaudium et Spes. This declaration possibly represents an indication of the orientation of the pontificate of John Paul II, who in his first address to the cardinals after his election emphasized his commitment to the Second Vatican Council, while making clear his stand against what he termed 'the conservative traditionalists' ".

Ecumenism will also be a major aspect of the new pontificate. The Lutheran bishop of Oldenburg (West Germany), Hans Heinrich Harms has declared that he has great expectations of the new pontificate, especially regarding the developments in ecumenism. In a personal talk with the Pope he has been assured that, under the guidance of Cardinal Willebrands, the Church's involvement in ecumenism will be pursued. Since the opening of Vatican II Cardinal Willebrands has played an important role in ecumenism.

Johannes Cardinal Willebrands, born in 1909, made his doctoral promotion in Rome in 1937 on a thesis on Newman. He was professor and president of the diocesan seminary in Warmond (The Netherlands), which post he left in 1946. From that time on he has been deeply involved in ecumenical work. In 1952, while President of the St. Willebrord Society, he founded the international "Catholic Conference for Ecumenical Questions". This organiation promoted lively relations with the World Council of Churches.

When Pope John XXIII founded the Secretariat for Christian Unity in 1960, he appointed Cardinal Bea as president and Mgr. Willebrands as secretary. After the death of Bea in 1969 Willebrands became president of that body.

In Rome, Willebrands got the nickname "The Flying Dutchman" because of his extensive travels. Together with Cardinal Bea he wielded a strong influence on the course of Vatican II: the decree on ecumenism, the declaration on religious liberty and the declaration on the Jews bear the marks of his influence.

Mgr. Willebrands arranged the participation of the observers of the Russian Orthodox Church at the Council. During his travel to Moscow, September 27-October 2, 1962, assurances were given that the Council would not make anti-communist declarations. This resulted in a sharp protest on the part of the Ukrainian Uniated Church under the leadership of Cardinal Slypji, but Mgr. Willebrands defended the presence of the Russian observers. He said that their coming to the Council could not be interpreted as a political manuevre and that the Russian Orthodox were welcome because they were sincerely devoted to the "goal of Christian unity". It is, however, a very well known fact that the Russian Orthodox Church is under complete state control.

He also prepared the meeting of Pope Paul VI with the panorthodox patriarch Athanagoras, which resulted in the lifting of the ban of excommunication by the Church in 1054. AS the official delegate of Pope Paul VI to the Lutheran World Assembly in Evian (Switzerland), Cardinal Willebrands made the following statement on July 16, 1970:

"Has not the Second Vatican Council itself accepted the requirements expressed amongst others by Luther and through which quite a few aspects of the Christian Faith are being expressed better today than in the past? Luther has in an extraordinary way made a new starting point for theology and Christian life for the times coming."

Yesterday the errors of Luther were condemned by the Church as heresies; today, top-ecumenist Willebrands makes of him a new doctor of the Church!

In December, 1975, after the retirement of Cardinal Alfrink, Willebrands was appointed Archbishop of Utrecht, while keeping his post as president of the Secretariat for Christian Unity in Rome at the request of Pope Paul VI. Willebrands holds many other influential posts as well: He is a member of the Congregation on Doctrine, of the Eastern Churches, Sacraments and Liturgy, Evangelization, Catholic Education, and is a member of the Papal Commission for the Revision of the Codex of the Western Church and of the Canon Law of the Eastern Church.

In his inthronisation sermon as Archbishop of Utrecht he called the most important tasks of the Church today: care for human society, human rights and unity between the churches, as desired by Vatican II.

"Nobody can call himself a Christian," Willebrands said at the International Eucharistic Congress in Philadephia, "who does not sincerely accept the principle of human rights."

His appointment received a warm welcome from Protestant ecumenists in Holland. Dr. Albert van den Heuvel, Secretary-General of the Dutch Reformed Church said, "Willebrand's profession is ecumenism."

Looking at the Cardinal's career and activities and pronouncements, one can be sure it is indeed!
German Die Einheit kommt, wenn sie von einem breiten Strom von unten getragen wird
Nov 14, 2004
Beim Zwanzigjahrjubiläum von Pro Oriente sprach der Präsident des Rates für die Einheit der Christen, Kardinal Willebrands, eine verpflichtende Mahnung aus.

(Svenska Dagbladet, 4/1 2004) Beim Zwanzigjahrjubiläum von Pro Oriente sprach der Präsident des Rates für die Einheit der Christen, Kardinal Willebrands, eine verpflichtende Mahnung aus, die nicht vergessen sei: "Bittet eure Bischöfe und auch Rom, mehr zu tun als bisher! Besteht darauf, daß alles, was theologisch ausgearbeitet wurde, in die Praxis umgesetzt wird. Die Einheit kommt, wenn sie von einem breiten Strom von unten getragen wird."
German Luther als gemeinsamer Lehrer
Nov 14, 2004
Aus einem Artikel der Deutschen Tagespost:
Wie sah Luther das geistliche Amt in der Kirche? Eine Kernfrage des ökumenischen Dialogs – Doch er leidet derzeit unter gegensätzlichen Deutungen des Reformators auf evangelischer Seite.

(DT, 24.10.2002 ) Kardinal Willebrands sagte 1970 bei der Vollversammlung des Lutherischen Weltbunds: Luther kann uns darin „gemeinsamer Lehrer sein, dass Gott stets Herr bleiben muss und dass unsere wichtigste menschliche Antwort absolutes Vertrauen und die Anbetung Gottes zu bleiben hat.“
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