Belgian Cardinal Suenens dies, aged 91


CARDINAL Leon Joseph Suenens of Belgium, who helped modernise the Catholic Church in the 1960s, died yesterday, aged 91.

Cardinal Suenens, born in Brussels on July 16th, 1904, was ordained in 1927. He was appointed Archbishop of the diocese of Brussels Mechelen in November 1961 and Primate of Belgium in January 1962 a position he held until his self imposed retirement in 1980.

Cardinal Suenens was one of four cardinals appointed to oversee the debate about the direction of the Catholic Church that arose from the second Vatican Council of 1962 to 1965.

Pope John Paul, in a telegram to Archbishop Godfried Danneels of Brussels Mechelen, remembered Cardinal Suenens as being "devoted with intense apostolic ardour to the service of his archdiocese and the Church in Belgium".

I also remember with emotion the place he held in the theological and pastoral reflections during sessions of the second Vatican Council," the Pope wrote.

Cardinal Suenens supported opening contacts between Catholics and other Christian faiths, one of the main outcomes of the Council. He also spoke in favour of greater collegiality within the Vatican hierarchy.

Cardinal Suenens, who visited Ireland perhaps a dozen times, was barracked by the Rev Ian Paisley, his daughter Rhonda, and hundreds of his supporters during an ecumenical service in St Anne's Church of Ireland Cathedral in Belfast in 1986.

Other Church leaders at the service in Week of Prayer for Church Unity, included Cardinal Tomas O Fiach.

During a visit in 1982 Cardinal Suenens said that the second Vatican Council was not yet fully implemented and urged the worldwide Charismatic Renewal Movement as a means of "bringing it to life."