Pope Notes Gratitude for Late Cardinal Dulles

Lauds Testimony to Faith-Reason Harmony

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI joined with others in expressing his condolences at the death of Cardinal Avery Dulles, who died Friday at 90.

In a telegram to Cardinal Edward Egan of New York, where Cardinal Dulles resided, the Pope said he commended his «noble soul to God, the Father of mercies.»

Avery Dulles was the son of U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. He embraced Catholicism as an adult, and was made a cardinal without episcopal ordination.

The Holy Father expressed his «immense gratitude for the deep learning, serene judgment and unfailing love of the Lord and his Church which marked his entire priestly ministry and his long years of teaching and theological research.»

«At the same time,» the telegram continued, «I pray that his convincing personal testimony to the harmony of faith and reason will continue to bear fruit for the conversion of minds and hearts and the progress of the Gospel for many years to come. To all who mourn him in the hope of the Resurrection I cordially impart my apostolic blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.»

Creatively faithful

In an article remembering the late cardinal, L’Osservatore Romano defined him as a «theologian creative in his fidelity.»

Robert Imbelli, associate professor of theology at Boston College, said in the article that Cardinal Dulles, in the wake of Vatican II, «explored the inexhaustible richness of the mystery of the Church by clarifying different models or approaches: Church as sacrament, as community, as herald, as servant.»

He added: «Unlike other theologians of the 1970s and 1980s, Dulles never neglected the fact that the mystery of the Church always refers to the greater mystery: Jesus Christ himself, who alone is the light of the world.

«In a time when some theologians seemed to stress one-sidedly the horizontal and this-worldly dimension, Dulles insisted that we must not lose the radical sense of God’s transcendence.

«It is true that Christians are certainly called to act for justice in the world. But they are also called to worship the God who is ‘semper Major’ [ever greater]. The Catholic theologian must be both faithful and creative, that is, he must advocate renewal within the tradition.»

Final surrender

In the last months of his life, Cardinal Dulles suffered a progressive paralysis, which prevented him from speaking.

«Despite this,» Father Imbelli noted, «his witness to the Lord Jesus and his faith in him, whom he called ‘the pearl of great price,’ were manifest, and a source of inspiration to those who cared for him and visited him, as Benedict XVI did on his visit to the United States last April.»

Just before the Pope’s visit, Cardinal Dulles gave his last McGinley Lecture at Fordham University. The cardinal could not speak but was present in a wheelchair, while his lecture was read for him.

In this last lecture he wrote that «suffering and diminishment are not the greatest of evils, but are normal ingredients in life, especially in old age. They are to be accepted as elements of a full human existence.»

«Well into my 90th year,» he wrote, «I have been able to work productively. As I become increasingly paralyzed and unable to speak, I can identify with the many paralytics and mute persons in the Gospels, grateful for the loving and skillful care I receive and for the hope of everlasting life in Christ.»

Concluding this final lecture, the cardinal wrote: «If the Lord now calls me to a period of weakness, I know well that his power can be made perfect in infirmity. ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord!'»

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