Obituary: Cardinal Alois Grillmeier

ALOIS GRILLMEIER, the Jesuit theologian, was a surprise appointee to the Sacred College of Cardinals, the highest body in the Catholic Church. Grillmeier was, like the Dominican Father Yves Congar, one of a handful of Pope John Paul II's favourite theologians named to the college, a departure from the practice of recent popes of appointing exclusively the senior bishops in each coun- try and bishops of the Vatican bureaucracy.

The appointment, in the November 1994 consistory, came as a surprise as much to Grillmeier as to others. Already 84, he was beyond the age at which cardinals are eligible to vote for a new pope, so his elevation was regarded as symbolic.

Although a specialist on the dogmatic controversies of the early Christian centuries, Grillmeier became known at the Second Vatican Council (1962- 65), where he acted as theological adviser to Bishop Wilhelm Kempf of Limburg. From 1963 to 1965 he was also on the theology commission of the Council itself. He had a particular input into the drafting of the document Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, which emphasised the collegiality of the bishops, an idea many of the council's bishops found unpalatable.

The council - which brought together nearly 3,000 Catholic participants and observers from other Churches - made a great impression on Grillmeier, who regarded it as a high point of his life. He remained committed to the changes brought about in the Catholic Church as a result of its work. During the second half of the council and in the immediate aftermath Grillmeier undertook four journeys to Zambia and Malawi to explain the documents adopted at the council to local clergy and missionaries.

Born in Bavaria in 1910, Grill-meier entered the Jesuit order in April 1929 after completing grammar school in Regensburg. He studied philosophy in Munich and theology in Valkenburg in the Netherlands. He was ordained priest in June 1937 in the middle of further theological studies in Frankfurt. He gained his doctorate in February 1942 in Freiburg after studying in Rome.

Two days after the graduation ceremony he was conscripted into the army and trained as a medical orderly in Ulm. He was then sent to the Eastern Front where he treated the casualties of the bitter fighting against Soviet forces. He was released from further military service in April 1944 as a member of the Jesuits.

Grillmeier then began a long teaching career in fundamental and dogmatic theology, most of which was spent as Professor of Dogmatics at the Sankt Georgen college in Frankfurt am Main, where the German Jesuits received their theological education. He retired in 1978 on his 68th birthday, but continued to write and lecture.

Grillmeier was committed to ecumenism. In the 1970s he became an adviser to the Pro Oriente Institute in Vienna, which promoted contact with other Christian Churches, especially in the East, and he took part in several unofficial theological dialogues with the Oriental Orthodox Churches.

But it was Grillmeier's written output - 12 major books and several hundred academic articles - that will be his legacy. Christ in Christian Tradition, his magnum opus, looked at the development of Christology from early Christian times to the ninth century, drawing particularly on the traditions of the Eastern Christian Church. Volume one was published in 1965 (with a revised version in 1975) and volume two in 1987. In a rare event, the work was published in English before the original German. Grillmeier published expanded versions of the second volume in the 1990s in collaboration with Theresia Hainthaler.

Grillmeier made few concessions in his academic writing to non- specialist readers. "We shall present the analysis of sources unabridged," he wrote in his introduction to the 340-page volume two of his Christ in Christian Tradition, "not for readers in a hurry, but for interested researchers and students."

But Grillmeier's writing was infused with his personal faith and had more than a simply academic aim. "If we are to proclaim the mysterium Christi in the language of our time, we must first have understood what the Fathers wanted to say in the language of their time."

Felix Corley

Alois Grillmeier, priest and theologian: born Pechbrunn, Germany 1 January 1910; ordained priest 1937; named a cardinal 1994; died Munich 13 September 1998.

Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'