A Talk With Cardinal Bea

From the August 11, 1962 issue of America by Eugene C. Bianchi, S.J.: What are the problems that will be discussed at the coming Vatican Council?


Out on Rome’s Via Aurelia, in a modest study on the second floor of the Brazilian College, works a man who reflects a vitality, optimism and foresight that belie his 81 years. Augustin Cardinal Bea, as president of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, is one of the truly outstanding personalities in pre-conciliar Rome. People marvel that this quiet biblical scholar, once confessor to Pope Pius XII, has become the dynamic and articulate champion of the cause of Christian unity.

Cardinal Agustin Bea, S.J.

As teacher and superior of the Pontifical Biblical Institute for more than a quarter-century, Father Bea, SJ., contributed much to the renewal of scriptural studies among Catholics. His many scholarly works and his inspiring direction have left their mark on a whole generation of Rome-trained exegetes. It seems eminently fitting that the Cardinal’s escutcheon should feature a dove hovering over a book. For the dove unintentionally symbolizes his very important contribution to Pius XII’s epoch-making encyclical. Divino Afflante Spiritu, the modern Magna Charta for Catholic biblical research.

But it is since 1960, when the scholarly Cardinal became head of the Unity Secretariat, that he has shot into the forefront of the world religious scene. The purpose that Pope John wished to engrave on the coming Council—that of a renewal of Catholic life in view of greater Christian unity—is perhaps best mirrored in the tireless activity of Cardinal Bea. His secretariat was established to keep non-Catholics abreast of Council preparations, to receive their suggestions, and to see to the delicate task of inviting non-Catholic observers to Vatican II. The secretariat also formulates proposals for the Council on such important topics as religious liberty, membership in the Mystical Body and the dialogue with the non-Catholic world. Continue reading