VATICAN CITY, JAN. 11, 2005 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II recalled the Christian testimony of Belgian Cardinal Jan Pieter Schotte, retired secretary of the Synod of Bishops, who died Monday after a brief illness. He was 76.
In a telegram of sympathy, the Pope said he received “with great sadness” “the news of the sudden demise of the dear Cardinal Jan Pieter Schotte,” and “with a grateful soul” recalled “his many years of industrious collaboration with the Holy See, and especially his generous service as secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops.”
“He leaves the example of a life spent for Christ in coherent devotion to his own priestly and religious vocation and ever attentive to social questions in complete faithfulness to the Gospel and the teaching of the Church,” the Holy Father said.
Hospitalized since December, Cardinal Schotte received the Pope’s blessing from the hands of Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute of the Secretariat of State, who visited him last Friday.
The cardinal’s funeral will be presided over by John Paul II on Friday in St. Peter’s Basilica. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, dean of the College of Cardinals, will celebrate the Mass.
Jan Pieter Schotte was born April 29, 1928, in Beveren-Leie, in the Diocese of Bruges. He entered the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Scheut Missionaries) in 1946 in Brussels.
Ordained a priest in 1952, he studied canon law at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, from 1953 to 1956. He was at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he served until 1966.
He went to Rome in 1967 as general secretary of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a post he held until 1972.
He was intensely involved in service to the Holy See: attaché in the international organizations division of the Secretariat of State of Popes Paul VI (1972-1978), John Paul I, and John Paul II (1978-1980); secretary of the Pontifical Commission “Iustitia et Pax” (1980-1983); chairman of the Vatican Labor Relations Commission (1982-1989).
He was secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops from 1985 until last Feb. 11.
Cardinal Schotte was awarded a number of honors, including Knight Commander with Star of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, Knight Commander of the Order of Leopold, Belgium, and Officer of the Legion of Honor, France.
He was elevated to cardinal by John Paul II in November 1994.
With the death of the Belgian prelate, the Church now has 184 cardinals, including 120 under age 80 who could vote in a conclave for a new pope.