Augustin Bea, SJ (28 May 1881 – 16 November 1968) was a German scholar at the Pontifical Gregorian University specialising in biblical studies and biblical archeology. He was confessor of Pope Pius XII. In 1959, Pope John XXIII made him cardinal of the Catholic Church. He served as the first president of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity from 1960 until his death. Bea was a leading biblical scholar and ecumenist, who greatly influenced relationships with other Christians and Jews during the Second Vatican Council in Nostra Aetate. Bea published several books, mostly in Latin, and 430 articles.
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Bea was born in Riedböhringen, today a part of Blumberg, Baden-Württemberg; his father was a carpenter. He studied at the Universities of Freiburg, Innsbruck, Berlin, and at Valkenburg, the Jesuit house of studies in the Netherlands. On 18 April 1902, he joined the Society of Jesus, as he "was much inclined to the scholarly life". Bea was ordained a priest on 25 August 1912, and finished his studies in 1914. He then served as Superior of the Jesuit residence in Aachen until 1917, at which time he began teaching Scripture at Valkenburg. From 1921 to 1924, Bea was the provincial superior of Germany. Superior General Wlodimir Ledochowski then sent him to Rome, where he worked as the Superior of the Biennial House of Formation (1924–1928), professor at the Pontifical Biblical Institute (1924–1949), and rector of the Institute of Superior Ecclesiastical Studies (1924–1930). In 1930, Bea was named rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute, a post in which he remained for nineteen years.
Raised to the rank of cardinal before his episcopal consecration, Bea was created Cardinal-Deacon of S. Saba by Pope John XXIII in the consistory of 14 December 1959. On 6 June 1960, he was appointed the first president of the newly formed Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, a Curial organisation charged with ecumenical affairs. It was not until two years later that, on 5 April 1962, Cardinal Bea was appointed a bishop: the Titular Archbishop of Germania in Numidia. He received his consecration on the following 19 April from John XXIII himself, with Cardinals Giuseppe Pizzardo and Benedetto Aloisi Masella serving as co-consecrators, in the Lateran Basilica. He resigned his post as titular archbishop in 1963, one year after the Second Vatican Council was convened.
Cardinal Bea was one of the electors in the 1963 papal conclave, which selected Pope Paul VI, and was confirmed as the President of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity (renamed as the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity by Pope John Paul II on 28 June 1988) on 3 January 1966.
Cardinal Bea died from a bronchial infection in Rome, at age 87. He was buried in the apse of the parish church of St. Genesius in his native Riedböhringen, where there also exists a museum dedicated to his honor.
Impact and influences
Bea was highly influential at the Vatican II Council in the 1960s, being a decisive force in the drafting of Nostra Aetate, which repudiated anti-Semitism. John Borelli, a Vatican II historian, has observed that, "It took the will of John XXIII and the perseverance of Cardinal Bea to impose the declaration on the Council". During a session of the Central Preparatory Commission, he also rejected the proposition that the Council Fathers take an oath composed of the Nicene Creed and the Anti-Modernist Oath. After Alfredo Ottaviani, the heavily conservative head of the Holy Office, presented his draft of the schema on the sources of Divine Revelation, Bea claimed that it "would close the door to intellectual Europe and the outstretched hands of friendship in the old and new world". He served on numerous ecumenical bodies and was the author of nine works, including The Church and the Jewish People (New York: Harper & Row, 1966).
Pope Pius XII
Bea was, for a short interval, a confessor to Pope Pius XII. He had immense impact on the composition and publication of the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu, along with Jacques-Marie Voste, O.P. (secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission).
Pius XII wanted to elevate Bea to the College of Cardinals in 1946, but Superior General Jean-Baptiste Janssens urged the Pope against the idea, as many already saw the Vatican as showing preferential treatment to the Jesuits.
Poem of the Man God
As confessor to Pope Pius XII, Bea was instrumental in bypassing the Vatican hierarchy to help Father Corrado Berti deliver a copy of the book Poem of the Man God to Pope Pius XII when Father Berti approached both Bea and Mnsgr Alphonso Carinci with a typed copy of the manuscript of Maria Valtorta's writings in 1947. With Bea's assistance the manuscript was thus delivered to Pius XII and Father Berti and Father Migliorini were granted a papal audience. in which Pius XII reportedly gave his verbal approval for the book's publication.
Books about Augustin Bea
- Malachi Martin, Three Popes and the Cardinal, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1972, ISBN 0-374-27675-7
- Stephan Schmidt, Augustin Bea, Cardinal der Einheit, Köln, 1989; transl: Augustin Bea, The Cardinal of Unity, New City Press, 1992
- Stephan Schmidt, Der Mensch Bea Aufzeichnungen des Cardinals, transl: Augustin Cardinal Bea, Spiritual Profile, Chapman, London, 1971
Books published by Augustin Bea
- Maria in der Offenbarung Katholische Marienkunde Bd. I Hugo Rahner, Augustin Bea, Schöningh, Paderborn, 1947
- Imagen de Maria en la Antigua Alianza, Buenos Aires, Revista Biblica,1954
- De Pentateucho Institutiones Biblicaa Scholis Accomodatae, Romae, 1933
- De Inspiratione Sacrae Scripturae, Romae, 1935
- Archeologica biblica, Romae, 1939
- La nuova traduzione Latina del Salterio, RomaE 1946
- Liber Ecclesiasticae qui ab Hebraeis appelatur Qohelet, Romae, 1950
- Canticum Canticorum Salamonis, Romae, 1953
- Cor Jesu Commentationes in Litteras encyclicas Pii Papae XII Haurietis Aquas, Herder Freiburg 1959
- Die Kirche und das judische Volk, (German Translation of La Chiesa e il popolo ebraico) Herder Frieburg 1966
Articles published by Augustin Bea
- Augustin Bea published 430 articles in the years 1918–1968. They dealt with archeological issues, exegesis of old testament texts, mariology, papal encyclicals, the unity of Christians, anti-semitism, Vatican II, relations to Protestantism and the eastern Orthodox Churches, and ecumenicism.
- 1954 Grand Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
- Grand Cross of the French Legion of Honour
- Grand Cross of the Greek Order of George I
- 1960 Grand Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
- 1965 International Prize for the brotherhood of the Fellowship Commission (International Fellowship Award), Philadelphia, Pa. / USA
- 1966 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, along with Visser 't Hooft
- 1967 Human Relations Award for the Society for Family of Man (New York)
- Martin, Malachi B. 1972. Three Popes and the Cardinal: The Church of Pius, John and Paul in its Encounter with Human History. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 0-374-27675-7.
- Time Magazine. The Supreme Realist 6 July 1962
- Time Magazine. Recent Events 22 November 1968
- Tracing the Contemporary Roots of Interreligious Dialogue
- Time Magazine. The Supreme Realist 6 July 1962
- Time Magazine. The Cardinal's Setback 23 November 1962
- America Magazine Biblical Scholarship 50 years After Divino Afflante Spiritu
- Time Magazine. The Catholic Scholars 3 May 1963
- Time Magazine. Eight New Hats 30 November 1959
- Father Berti and Bea A Testimony on Maria Valtorta's Poem of the Man-God
- Fr. Berti's annotations to Maria Valtorta's Libro di Azaria (Book of Azaria), Edizioni Pisani, 1972.
- L'Osservatore Romano 27 February 1948.
- Valepic An introduction to Maria Valtorta an her Epic Narrative The Poem of the Man God
- Corley, Felix. Obituary: Malachi Martin The Independent (London)