December 12, 2008
Evangelicals Lose Ecumenical Friend in Catholic Theologian's Death (Updated)
Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., best known among evangelicals for his ecumenical work with Evangelicals and Catholics Together, died at 6:30 this morning at a Jesuit infirmary in Bronx, New York, first reported by In All Things, the blog of national Catholic weekly America. His health had been failing from the effects of childhood polio. He was 90 years old.
Dulles was widely considered to be one of America's top Catholic theologians, rising to the position of cardinal in 2001 without having first been a bishop, and was personally visited by Pope Benedict XVI in April.
Update: Reactions from ECT evangelicals.
Dulles was the preeminent Catholic theologian in North America for generations and deeply informed Catholic, evangelical and ecumenical theology, said Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School and longtime participant in Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT).
"It's a great loss to the Church," said George. "He's irreplaceable. There's nobody in Catholic theology near his stature."
"This is a very serious blow to the whole Christian movement," said Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship and co-founder of ECT. "I am deeply grieved by Cardinal Dulles' passing."
Dulles had been highly active in ECT, an ecumenical group of 10 evangelical and 10 Catholic theologians first convened by Colson and Richard Neuhaus in 1994, since its inception and never missed a meeting until last year, said George. Even after a stroke left Dulles unable to speak, the cardinal attended ECT meetings and participated in discussions via keyboard.
George, who worked directly with Dulles on drafts of ECT statements, said the cardinal was skilled at keeping the ecumenical group focused on its goals and reframing discussions to move past impasses.
"He's been especially encouraging to evangelicals?. He saw the importance of evangelicals and Catholics working together for unity," said George.
Dulles will remain influential as the ecumenical movement moves on. "We have a lot of wisdom still to garner from his writings. He will continue to be a major figure we refer to in the future," said George. "We will continue to follow in his train as best we can with the Lord's help."