After hearing of the death of Cardinal Jozef Tomko, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, who passed away on Monday, 8 August, Pope Francis expressed his condolences in a telegram addressed to Archbishop Bernard Bober of Košice. The following is a translation of the Pope’s telegram, which was written in Italian, accompanied by a brief biography of the late Cardinal.
Upon learning of the news of the death of Cardinal Jozef Tomko, illustrious son of this land, I would like to express to his family, to you, to the presbyterate and to all the faithful my closeness and my condolences for the loss that has afflicted the entire ecclesial community and the Slovak nation.
In remembering this esteemed and wise Brother who, sustained by deep faith and a farsighted outlook, served the Gospel and the Church with humility and self-denial, I think with gratitude of his long and fruitful work in the Holy See as a diligent and prudent collaborator of my Predecessors. I also think of his prayerful spirit, as he, at an advanced age, remained assiduous at the daily evening recitation of the Rosary in Saint Peter’s Square, giving to pilgrims and tourists a beautiful and public witness of love for the Holy Virgin. I ask the Lord to welcome this faithful Servant of his into the heavenly Jerusalem, and from my heart I impart my blessing to all who mourn his passing, with a grateful thought for the Sisters of Mercy of Saint Vincent de Paul-Satma’Rok who cared for him with the utmost solicitude.
Cardinal Jozef Tomko, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and President emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for the International Eucharistic Congresses, was born on 11 March 1924 in Udavské, Slovakia. He studied at the faculty of Theology of Bratislava and then at the Pontifical Lateran University and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome where he earned doctorates in Theology, Canon Law and Social Sciences. On 12 March 1949 he was ordained a priest, and from 1950 to 1965 he was vice rector of the Pontifical Nepomuceno College.
From 1962 he served as an assistant and from 1966 he was head of the doctrinal office of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. In that period he was chosen as one of the special secretaries for the first synodal assembly of 1967.
In December 1974 he was named Under-Secretary of the Congregation for Bishops.
On 12 July 1979 he was named Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops. Contemporarily he was elected titular Archbishop of Doclea. He received his episcopal ordination on 15 September 1979.
From 1980 to 1983 he prepared and took care of the activities of two Ordinary General Synods and in 1980 a particular the Synod of Bishops of the Netherlands. He also began the preparation of the Extraordinary Synod of 1985 on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the closing of Vatican Council II, and the Ordinary Synod of 1987 on the vocation and mission of lay people.
He was also active on an international level in the area of ecumenism. In 1972, he was a delegate of the Holy See at the World Lutheran Federation and the World Council of Churches in Geneva. He also headed the Holy See’s delegation at the reunion of European Ministers for the Affairs of the Family held in Rome in 1981.
After a brief experience teaching at the international University ‘Pro-Deo’ (1955-1956), he held courses at the Gregorian University from 1970 to 1978. Even with such a busy schedule, he managed to carry out his pastoral ministry in the numerous parishes of Rome and in the diocese of Porto-Santa Rufina. He was co-founder of a religious journal and the Sts. Cyril and Methodius Institute in Rome.
He also visited the Slovak communities in the USA, Canada and Europe many times.
Sent by the Holy See, he attended a number of bishops’ meetings: the Pan-Asiatic Conference in Manila (1970); the Plenary Assembly in Oceania, Sydney (1973); the Conference of Puebla (1979): the celebrations of the 25th Anniversary of the Foundation of the CELAM in Rio de Janeiro (1980), and the meeting of SECAM in Yaoundé (1981).
He was Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Urban University from 27 May 1985 to 9 April 2001. He was President delegate of the Special Assembly for Asia of the Synod of Bishops in 1998, and President of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses from 15 October 2001 to 1 October 2007. He was created a Cardinal by St. John Paul II in the Consistory of 25 May 1985, with the Title of St. Sabina.
Cardinal Jozef Tomko died on 8 August. His funeral took place on Thursday morning, 11 August, in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Altar of the Chair.
The funeral Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Dean of Cardinals, together with the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops. At the end of the Mass, Pope Francis presided at the rite of the Ultima commendatio and valedictio.