· Vatican City ·

A great exegete and biblist, the eldest in the College of Cardinals

Remembering Cardinal Albert Vanhoye

06 August 2021

French Jesuit Cardinal Albert Vanhoye, Rector emeritus of the Pontifical Biblical Institute and former Secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, passed away on Thursday afternoon, 29 July, in the infirmary of the General Curia of the Society of Jesus in Rome. He was 98.

Albert Vanhoye was born on 24 July 1923 in Hazebrouck, in the Archdiocese of Lille, France. He attended the Institute of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as a boy, before entering the minor seminary of Hazebrouck in 1934. At the age of 18 he had the courage to cross German-occupied France on foot in order to enter the Society of Jesus in La Vignau on 11 September 1941. He professed his first vows on 15 November 1944 and was ordained a priest on 25 July 1954 in Enghien, Belgium, by Bishop Henri Dupont, Auxiliary of Lille.

He earned a license in literature at the Sorbonne (1945-1946), taught classical Greek at the Jesuit scholasticate in Yzeure (1946-1947), philosophy at the Jesuit scholasticate in Vals-pré-le  Puy (1947-1950), and theology at the Jesuit scholasticate in Enghien, Belgium (1951-1955). He then obtained a license in Sacred Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute (1956-1958) and, after professing his final vows on 2 February 1959, obtained a doctorate in Sacred Scripture, with a study on the Letter to the Hebrews (1961-1963). Between 1959 and 1962 he also taught classical Greek and exegesis on the New Testament in Chantilly, France.

He began as a professor at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1963, teaching exegesis on the New Testament until 1993, and holding courses in exegesis on the Letter to the Hebrews and the Letters of Saint Paul, as well as courses in biblical theology and seminars on the Gospels, Letters and Revelation.

Ever available to his students, he served as the moderator of 28 doctoral theses on various themes of Pauline theology, exegesis on the Gospels of Mark and Luke, and literary structure (Revelation). He was also the second relator of 15 theses and directed numerous written works.

He offered other important services to the Pontifical Biblical Institute, as editor of “Biblica” for the New Testament (1969-1984); editor-in-chief of “Biblica” (1978-1984); and director of “Analecta Biblica” (from 1980). He served as Dean of the Biblical Faculty from 1969 to 1975, and as its Rector from 1984 to 1990.

He taught at and directed about 10 theses for the Pontifical Gregorian University, and also taught at the Ecclesia Mater Institute of the Pontifical Lateran University. He was a member, as well as president in 1995, of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas ( snts ), an international and interdenominational organization; a member of the Association Cath-o-lique Francaise pour l’Étude de la Bible ( acfeb ) from its foundation. He took part in the congresses of these associations as well as in the Biblicum Lovaniense Colloquium, serving as president in 1984; and in the ecumenical Pauline Colloquium, serving as president in 1995.

He was a member of the preparatory committee of the Apostolic Constitution Sapientia Christiana signed by John Paul II on 15 April 1979, and of the Pontifical Biblical Commission beginning in 1984, serving as secretary from 1990 to 2001, under its then president, Cardinal Joseph Rat-zing-er. He participated in the 7th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 1987.

In 2006 Benedict XVI created him cardinal, and he asked not to receive episcopal ordination.

In February 2008 he preached the spiritual Lenten exercises to Pope Ratzinger and the Roman Curia on the theme “Let us welcome Christ our highest priest”.

On 6 October 2008, at the 12th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops he presented the document of the Pontifical Biblical Commission: “The Jewish People and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible”.

Within the Roman Curia he served as Consultor of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity from 1980-1996; the Congregation for Catholic Education since 1976 and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since 1990.

In 2013 he retired to the community of San Pietro Canisio in Rome, at the general Curia of the Society of Jesus, which hosts elderly and infirm religious.

Cardinal Vanhoye’s funeral took place on Saturday, 31 July, at the Altar of the Chair in Saint Peter’s Basilica.