VATICAN CITY, NOV. 3, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II expressed his grief over the death of Belgian Cardinal Gustaaf Joos, a longtime friend, who died Tuesday in Landskouter. He was 81.
In a telegram sent to Cardinal Godfried Danneels, archbishop of Brussels, the Pope recalled the years when he and Joos were young students in Rome, where their friendship was forged. He recalled that Cardinal Joos led a life dedicated to “pastoral tasks.”
On learning the news of his friend’s death, the Holy Father recollected himself in prayer, Vatican Radio reported.
Cardinal Joos was one of the surprises of the last consistory for the elevation of new cardinals, held on Oct. 21, 2003.
When the Pope mentioned his name publicly, a few weeks before the consistory, in St. Peter’s Square, those who heard him did not know to whom he was referring. Nor was it any help to learn that the priest was the canon of Ghent cathedral in Belgium.
Gustaaf Joos, born on July 5, 1923, was ordained a priest in 1946. He studied in Rome for a doctorate in canon law at the Gregorian University. For two years during his residence in the Belgian College, there was a Polish priest staying there, Karol Wojtyla, who was writing his doctoral thesis under the direction of Dominican Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange.
Father Joos, who had three brothers who were priests, continued his close friendship with his Polish friend. When Wojtyla was appointed archbishop of Krakow and later elected the Successor of Peter, they met about once a year.
Father Joos was, among other things, professor of moral theology and canon law in the Ghent Seminary. He was also judicial vicar of the diocese.
With his death, the number of cardinals is 186. Of these, 122 are electors, under the age of 80, who could vote in a conclave for a new pope.