Roger Etchegaray

Roger Marie Élie Etchegaray (French pronunciation: ​[ʁɔʒe ɛtʃɛɡaʁaj]; 25 September 1922 – 4 September 2019) was a French cardinal of the Catholic Church. Etchegaray served as the Archbishop of Marseille from 1970 to 1985 before entering the Roman Curia, where he served as President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (1984–1998) and President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum (1984–1995). He was elevated to the rank of cardinal in 1979, and was the longest-serving cardinal never to attend a papal conclave.

Roger Etchegaray
President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
Roger Etchegaray 2012.jpg
Cardinal Roger Etchegaray in Sarajevo, 2012
Appointed8 April 1984
Term ended24 June 1998
PredecessorAgostino Casaroli
Other posts
Ordination13 July 1947
by Jean Saint-Pierre
Consecration27 May 1969
by François Marty
Created cardinal30 June 1979
by Pope John Paul II
(previously Cardinal-Priest)
Personal details
Birth nameRoger Marie Élie Etchegaray
Born(1922-09-25)25 September 1922
Espelette, France
Died4 September 2019(2019-09-04) (aged 96)
Cambo-les-Bains, France
DenominationCatholic Church
Previous post

He served as papal representative in delicate situations. Some were ecclesiastical, like improving relations with the Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow, organizing an historic inter-religious prayer service in Assisi in 1986, and seeking rapprochement with Communist governments. Others were geopolitical, attempting to prevent international violence, arranging an exchange of prisoners, or bearing witness to the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsis.


Early life and ordinationEdit

Etchegaray, of Basque ancestry,[1] was born in the Northern Basque Country to Jean-Baptiste and Aurélie Etchegaray. The eldest of three children, he had two younger siblings, Jean and Maïté; their father worked as an agricultural mechanic.[2] All his life he spoke French with the accent of his native region.[3]

He attended the minor seminary in Ustaritz and the major seminary in Bayonne before studying at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, from where he obtained a Licentiate of Sacred Theology and a Doctorate of Canon Law. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Jean Saint-Pierre on 13 July 1947.[2]

Priest and bishopEdit

Etchegaray then did pastoral work in the Diocese of Bayonne, also serving as secretary to Bishop Léon-Albert Terrier, secretary general of the diocesan works of Catholic Action, and as vicar general. He then served as deputy director (1961–1966) and later secretary general (1966–1970) of the French Episcopal Conference.[4]

On 29 March 1969, Etchegaray was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Paris and Titular Bishop of Gemellae in Numidia by Pope Paul VI.[2] He received his episcopal consecration on the following 27 May from Cardinal François Marty, with Cardinal Paul Gouyon and Bishop Władysław Rubin serving as co-consecrators, at Notre-Dame Cathedral.

Archbishop and cardinalEdit

Styles of
Roger Etchegaray
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal
SeePorto-Santa Rufina (suburbicarian)

Etchegaray was named Archbishop of Marseille on 22 December 1970[5] and served until 1984, when he took up assignments in the Roman Curia. He was twice elected president of the Conference of French Bishops, serving from 1975 to 1981.[6] On 8 April 1984, Pope John Paul II named him President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.[7] He held the first of those positions until 2 December 1995 and the other until 24 June 1998.[citation needed] In Rome he lived in the Palazzo San Callisto, a Vatican property in Trastevere.[3]

He was made Cardinal-Priest of San Leone I by Pope John Paul II in the consistory of 30 June 1979. On 24 June 1998 he was appointed Cardinal Bishop of Porto-Santa Rufina. Etchegaray was elected Vice-Dean of the College of Cardinals and served from 30 April 2005[8] until 10 June 2017, when he was relieved from the duties of his position at his own request.[9]

Diplomatic rolesEdit

Popes Paul VI and John Paul II used Etchegaray as a diplomatic agent even when he was still Archbishop of Marseille and before he had Curial titles associated with human rights. He visited Eastern Europe on their behalf several times in the 1970s.[4] In 1980 he became the first cardinal to visit China[10] and visited again in 1993.[11] He improved the relations with the Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow.[6] He was a key organizer among others of the first World Day of Prayer for Peace that brought together more than 160 religious leaders in Assisi on 27 October 1986. It was the broadest representation of international religious leaders ever assembled.[12]


Etchegaray made his first trip to Cuba in 1989 and spent nine days there, between Christmas and New Year's Day. His Cuban tour was capped by an meeting with Fidel Castro during Christmas week at which Etchegaray underlined the social contribution the Church provided to the Cuban health service, the pride of the Cuban regime.[13]

The meeting underscored an easing of tensions between Church and state in the officially atheist country, where practicing Christians and Jews have been objects of government repression for almost 30 years.[14]

Catholic–Orthodox relationsEdit

In 2006, the Catholic Church, again through Cardinal Etchegaray, gave the Greek Orthodox Church another relic of St. Andrew.[15]

Iran–Iraq WarEdit

In December 1985, he led a Vatican team invited by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to visit prisoners of war held in Iran.[16] He visited Baghdad in 1985 when he helped to arrange an exchange of prisoners of war between Iran and Iraq while they were at war. In 1998, he visited Baghdad to determine if a papal visit was feasible.[6]

Rwandan genocideEdit

He first visited Rwanda in 1993 in an attempt to reconcile the warring parties.[17] In June 1994, amidst the violence of the Rwandan genocide, he visited the site where three bishops were assassinated and officiated at their funeral. He crossed the country to deliver the same message to the government and its rebel opposition.[18][19]

U.S. invasion of IraqEdit

The Vatican opposed the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and sent Cardinal Etchegaray as an envoy to persuade Iraqi authorities to cooperate with the United Nations in order to avoid war.[20][21]


In 2003 he received the journalistic prize Golden Doves for Peace awarded by the Italian Research Institute Archivio Disarmo.[22]


Injuries sustained during papal attackEdit

On 24 December 2009, Cardinal Etchegaray was knocked down along with Pope Benedict XVI when 25-year-old Susanna Maiolo jumped over a barrier and grappled with the Pope, who was making his way through St Peter's Basilica in procession for Christmas Eve Mass. The Pope was not injured, but Etchegaray suffered a broken leg and a broken hip.[24][25][26] He had been standing a few metres away from the Pope and was knocked down in the scuffle.[27] The Vatican said Maiolo was "psychologically unstable" and had lunged at the Pope previously.[28]

In 2015, Etchegaray fell in St. Peter's Basilica during Mass and broke his leg for the second time.[29]

Return to France and deathEdit

Etchegaray returned to Bayonne, France, in January 2017, to live with his sister Maité (d. 13 February 2018) in a retirement home in Cambo-les-Bains near Espelette, the village where he was born. Catholic News Agency journalist Andrea Gagliarducci described Cardinal Etchegary's retirement from Rome as "the end of an era".[30] He had farewell meetings with Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI before he left.[30] Pope Francis accepted his resignation as Vice Dean of the College of Cardinals on 10 June 2017.[31]

Etchegaray died on 4 September 2019.[32] At the time of his death he was the oldest living cardinal, following the death of Cardinal Pimiento Rodriguez one day earlier on 3 September 2019.[33] Etchegaray was the longest-serving cardinal not to participate in a papal conclave.[a]


  1. ^ On 26 November 2008 he overtook Giacomo Antonelli, secretary of state to Pope Pius IX, who was a cardinal for 29 years during the 31-year pontificate of Pius IX. Both Antonelli's and Etchegaray's non-participation in conclaves was not by choice because there was no conclave that either of them could freely and legally attend. The comparison is inexact because Antonelli was eligible to participate in a conclave until his death. Etchegaray on the other hand, lost his eligibility on his 80th birthday when he had been a cardinal for a little more than 23 years. Also, no conclave was held while Antonelli was a cardinal, while Etchegaray was actually excluded from participating in the conclaves of 2005 and 2013.


  1. ^ Carroll, Rory (26 May 2001). "Cardinals smoke out the next pope". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "Etchegaray Card. Roger". Holy See Press Office. Archived from the original on 19 September 2016. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  3. ^ a b Tincq, Paul Henri (5 September 2019). "Le cardinal Roger Etchegaray, ancien ambassadeur privé de Jean-Paul II, est mort". Le Monde (in French). Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  4. ^ a b c "Décès du cardinal Roger Etchegaray (1922-2019)". Conference of Catholic Bishops (in French). 5 September 2019. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  5. ^ Acta Apostolicae Sedis (PDF). LXIII. 1971. p. 152. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  6. ^ a b c Glatz, Carol (5 September 2019). "Cardinal Etchegaray, key papal envoy of St. John Paul II, dies at 96". Crux. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  7. ^ Acta Apostolicae Sedis (PDF). LXXVI. 1984. p. 508. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  8. ^ "Other Pontifical Acts" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. 30 April 2005. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  9. ^ "Resignations and Appointments, 10.06.2017" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. 10 June 2017. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  10. ^ "Le regard chinois de Mgr Etchegaray". La Croix (in French). 17 November 2004. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  11. ^ "Seeking Thaw, Vatican Sends Aide to China". New York Times. 3 September 1993. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  12. ^ "An Organizer of "Assisi I" Looks Ahead to "Assisi II"". Zenit. 22 November 2001. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  13. ^ Galea, Joe (29 May 2019). "A Cardinal in Cuba". Times of Malta. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  14. ^ Gagliarducci, Andrea (18 December 2014). "Cuba, US: how the Holy See was behind the scene for 50 years". Catholic News Agency. Archived from the original on 14 July 2018. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  15. ^ "Relic of St. Andrew Given to Greek Orthodox Church". Zenit News Agency. 27 February 2006. Archived from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  16. ^ "World of Religion". Washington Post. 28 December 1985. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  17. ^ "Eglise Catholique au Rwanda: Aperçu Historique". Episcopal Conference of Rwanda (in French). Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  18. ^ Piton, Florent (2018). Le génocide des Tutsi du Rwanda (in French). La Découverte. ISBN 9782348041181.
  19. ^ Roth, John K. (2005). Ethics During and After the Holocaust: In the Shadow of Birkenau. Springer. pp. 155ff. ISBN 9780230513105.
  20. ^ "Iraqi president meets Papal envoy Etchegaray". Irish Times. 15 February 2003. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  21. ^ "Declaration by Cardinal Roger Etchegaray Following his Meeting with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein". Holy See Press Office. 15 February 2003. Retrieved 28 June 2018. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  22. ^ "The Journalism Prize" (PDF). Disarmo. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  23. ^ "Le cardinal Etchegaray, grand-croix de la Légion d'Honneur" (in French). 27 April 2014. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  24. ^ Gammell, Caroline (25 December 2009). "Pope Benedict XVI knocked over during Christmas Eve Mass: Pope Benedict XVI was knocked down by a woman who jumped over security barriers at the start of Christmas Eve Mass". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Archived from the original on 26 December 2009. Retrieved 25 December 2009.
  25. ^ Gardham, Duncan (25 December 2009). "Psychiatric patient identified as woman who attacked the Pope: The woman who assaulted the Pope was identified as Susanna Maiolo, 25, a Swiss-Italian national". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Archived from the original on 28 December 2009. Retrieved 25 December 2009.
  26. ^ McKenna, Josephine (25 December 2009). "Vatican security criticised after Christmas Eve Mass attack on Pope". The Times. Retrieved 25 December 2009.
  27. ^ "Pope knocked down by woman at Christmas Mass". BBC News. 25 December 2009. Archived from the original on 25 December 2009. Retrieved 25 December 2009.
  28. ^ "Pope calls for peace amid concern over his security". Reuters. 25 December 2009. Retrieved 25 December 2009.
  29. ^ "French cardinal breaks his leg in St Peter's Basilica for a second time". Catholic Herald. 26 October 2015. Archived from the original on 28 June 2018. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  30. ^ a b Gagliarducci, Andrea (26 January 2017). "Cardinal Etchegaray's retirement means the end of an era". Catholic News Agency. Archived from the original on 15 January 2019. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  31. ^ "Rinunce e Nomine, 10.06.2017" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 10 June 2017. Archived from the original on 15 July 2017. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  32. ^ de Gaulmyn, Isabelle (4 September 2019). "Mort du cardinal Roger Etchegaray, le Basque universel". La Croix (in French). Archived from the original on 4 September 2019. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  33. ^ "Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who oversaw the Jubilee Year 2000, dies at 96". Catholic News Agency. 4 September 2019. Archived from the original on 5 September 2019. Retrieved 5 September 2019.

External linksEdit

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Georges Jacquot
Archbishop of Marseille
22 December 1970 – 13 April 1985
Succeeded by
Robert Coffy
Preceded by
Bernardin Gantin
President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum
8 April 1984 – 2 December 1995
Succeeded by
Paul Josef Cordes
President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
8 April 1984 – 24 June 1998
Succeeded by
Nguyen Van Thuan
Preceded by
Angelo Sodano
Sub-Dean of the College of Cardinals
30 April 2005 – 10 June 2017
Succeeded by
Giovanni Battista Re
Preceded by
Agostino Casaroli
Cardinal-Bishop of Porto-Santa Rufina
24 June 1998 – 4 September 2019
Succeeded by
Beniamino Stella
Preceded by
José de Jesús Pimiento Rodríguez
Oldest living Member of the Sacred College
3–4 September 2019
Succeeded by
Albert Vanhoye, S.J.