Avery Dulles, friend of NCC's Faith & Order,
dies affirming his faith and cautioning secular society
New York, December 16,
2008 -- The death December 12 of Cardinal Avery Dulles was a sad
event for ecumenists related to the National Council of Churches
USA, both because of the Cardinal's friendship with the NCC's Faith
and Order Commission and because of his father's close relationship
with the Council in its early years.
late John Foster Dulles, a Presbyterian layman and Avery Dulles'
father, was active in both the National and World Councils of
Churches before he became Secretary of State in 1953. The elder
Dulles chaired the Federal Council's "Just
and Durable Peace Conference" at the outbreak of World War II in
Cardinal Avery Dulles
became a Roman Catholic following a period of deep soul searching
while a student at Harvard in 1941. He joined the Society of Jesus
after his discharge from the Navy in 1946, and was ordained to the
priesthood in 1956.
As the Laurence J.
McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham University in
New York, and as a visiting professor at more than a dozen colleges
and seminaries around the world, Dulles had a profound impact on the
education and spiritual development of thousands of students --
including Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, the NCC's Senior Program
Director for Faith & Order and Interfaith Relations, who earned his Ph.D. degree under
Cardinal Dulles's tutelage at Fordham in 2003.
"Cardinal Dulles was first and foremost a great teacher of the
faith," Kireopoulos said Monday, expressing his sadness at his
professor's passing. "He imparted to me and his other students his
wisdom, but what I learned most of all from him was the importance
of precision when articulating theological positions. Words were
never to be wasted or used superficially when discussing Christian
Kireopoulos noted that Cardinal Dulles was a friend of the
Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches and
in 2007 gave an address at Faith and Order's 50th
anniversary conference in Oberlin, Ohio.
address to the Oberlin conference challenged the ecumenical community
with regard to the present and suggested a way forward.
Dulles, 90, was the oldest U.S. cardinal at the time of his death. Funeral
masses were slated for Tuesday, December 16 and Wednesday, December 17
at the Fordham University Church, and Thursday, December 18, at
St. Patrick's Cathedral.
In recent years,
Dulles' health had declined due to leftover effects of a
youthful bout with polio. On Tuesday April 1, 2008, he gave his
Farewell Address at Fordham. Dulles was unable to speak so
the former President of Fordham University Father Joseph O'Hare, S.J. read the Cardinal's address.
diminishment are not the greatest evils but are normal
ingredients of life, especially in old age," Dulles said at
the time. "They are to be expected as elements of a full
human existence. Well into my 90th year I have been able to
work productively. As I become increasingly paralyzed and
unable to speak, I can identify with the many paralytics and
mute persons in the Gospels, grateful for the loving and
skillful care I receive and for the hope of everlasting life
in Christ. If the Lord now calls me to a period of weakness,
I know well that his power can be made perfect in
On April 19,
2008, Pope Benedict XVI visited the ailing Cardinal Dulles
during his visit to the United States.
Avery Dulles was widely
acclaimed for his
groundbreaking 1974 work Models of the Church
-- one of 22 books published under his name -- in which he defined
the church as institution, mystical communion, sacrament, herald,
servant and community of disciples, and critiqued each.
"Many people learned from
his writings over the decades," said Kireopoulos. "In his later years while
some continued to embrace his teaching and others disagreed, all
continued to respect the intellectual vigor with which he expressed
recalled visiting Cardinal Dulles just weeks ago in early October.
"He could not speak due to his illness but his mind was as sharp as
ever. It was difficult to see a man who had preached so
brilliantly not being able to communicate verbally with those who
came to see him in his last days."
NCC News contact:
Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228,