In memoriam Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy

12 Apr 2021

The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity mourns the death on 10 April 2021 of Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy, President of the Council from 1989–2001.

The term of office of Cardinal Cassidy was deeply inspired by the Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint (1995) of Pope John Paul II. Among many highlights, he promoted the resumption of the interrupted theological dialogue with the Orthodox Church, resulting in the publication of the Balamand Document (1993). He was also instrumental in the publication of the Common Christological Declaration (1994) between Pope John Paul II and Catholicos Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV of the Assyrian Church of the East, as well as the Christological declarations with the Armenian Catholicoi Karekin I (1996) and Aram I (1997). In 1999, on behalf of the Catholic Church, he signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification with the Lutheran World Federation. He also oversaw the publication of the updated Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism (1993) and of The Ecumenical Dimension in the Formation of Those Engaged in Pastoral Work (1997).

Cardinal Cassidy accompanied Pope John Paul II on many apostolic visits, among them the 1999 visit to Romania in which he met with Patriarch Teoctist of the Romanian Orthodox Church, to Mount Sinai in 2000, and in 2001 a Jubilee Pilgrimage “in the footsteps of Saint Paul” including historical visits to Athens and Damascus. In the last years of his presidency, Cardinal Cassidy was highly committed to the ecumenical dimension of the events of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

Cardinal Cassidy was also President of the Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism. During his mandate, the milestone document We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah (1998) was published. In 2000, he accompanied Pope John Paul II on a visit to the Holy Land, during which the Holy Father ushered in the dialogue with the Great Rabbinate of Israel, entrusting the deepening process of Catholic reconciliation with the Jewish people to Cardinal Cassidy’s wise leadership.

On Cardinal Cassidy’s retirement, Pope John Paul II wrote, “Convinced that the progress of ecumenism was a central element in my own ministry and in view of the radical changes which came after the collapse of Communism, I judged that the Holy See needed your particular qualities and skills in its efforts to heal the historic wounds of division among Christians. Now I wish to thank you for all that you have achieved, not without great self-sacrifice, as a trusted partner in dialogue with the other Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities, as well as in the excellent work you have done in building relations between the Catholic Church and Judaism. How many graces has the Lord granted his Church through your constant and effective cooperation” (26 February 2002).

The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity remembers Cardinal Cassidy with gratitude for his many contributions, and in particular for his gift of healing wounded relationships, promoting reconciliation, and building trust as key attributes of ecumenical relations. The Pontifical Council recalls the encouraging words of Cardinal Cassidy’s farewell homily, “Continue then, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, to dedicate yourselves and your talents to the search for the ‘noble goal’ of Christian Unity. ‘Duc in altum’/Be ready to ‘go out into the deep’, putting all your trust and hope in the Lord who has entrusted you with this task” (12 June 2001).

Pope Francis sent a telegram of condolence to Archbishop Adolfo Tito Yllana, Apostolic Nuncio in Australia.