Leo Joseph Suenens

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His Eminence
Leo Jozef Suenens
Cardinal Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussel
Primate of Belgium
Suenens.jpg
See Mechelen-Brussel
Installed 24 November 1961
Term ended 4 October 1979
Predecessor Jozef-Ernest van Roey
Successor Godfried Danneels
Other posts Auxiliary Bishop of Mechelen (1945–61)
Orders
Ordination 4 September 1927
Consecration 16 December 1945
Created Cardinal 19 March 1962
Personal details
Born (1904-07-16)16 July 1904
Ixelles, Belgium
Died 6 May 1996(1996-05-06) (aged 91)
Brussels, Belgium

Leo Jozef Suenens (16 July 1904 – 6 May 1996) was a Belgian prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussel from 1961 to 1979, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1962.

Suenens was a leading voice at the Second Vatican Council and advocated aggiornamento in the Church.

Biography[edit]

Early life and education[edit]

Leo Suenens was born at 6:30 am in a clinic at Ixelles to Jean-Baptiste and Jeanne (née Jannsens) Suenens. He was baptised by his uncle, who was also a priest. Losing his father (who had owned a restaurant)[1] at age four, Leo lived with his mother in the rectory of his priest-uncle from 1911 to 1912. He studied at Saint Mary's Institute in Schaerbeek and then entered the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1920. From the Gregorian he obtained a doctorate in theology and in philosophy (1927), and a master's degree in canon law (1929). Suenens had taken as his mentor Cardinal Désiré-Joseph Mercier, who had also sent him to Rome.

Priesthood[edit]

Ordained to the priesthood on 4 September 1927 by Cardinal Jozef-Ernest van Roey, Suenens initially served as a professor at Saint Mary's Institute and then taught moral philosophy and pedagogy at the Minor Seminary of Mechelen from 1930 to 1940. He worked as a chaplain to the 9th artillery regiment of the Belgian Army in Southern France for three months, and in August 1940 he became vice-rector of the famed Catholic University of Louvain. When the Louvain's rector was arrested by Nazi forces in 1943, Suenens took over as acting rector. Raised to the rank of Monsignor in October 1941, he was included on a list of thirty hostages who were to be executed by the Nazis, but the Allied liberation of Belgium occurred shortly before these orders could be carried out.

Episcopal career[edit]

Styles of
Leo Jozef Suenens
External Ornaments of a Cardinal Bishop.svg
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
See Mechelen-Brussel

On 12 November 1945, he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Mechelen and Titular Bishop of Isinda. Suenens received his episcopal consecration on the following 16 December from Cardinal van Roey, with Bishops Étienne Joseph Carton de Wiart and Jan van Cauwenbergh serving as co-consecrators. He was named Archbishop of Mechelen on 24 November 1961; the primatial Belgian see was renamed Mechelen-Brussel on 8 December of the same year. Suenens was created Cardinal Priest of S. Pietro in Vincoli by Pope John XXIII in the consistory of 19 March 1962.

Suenens was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 1963 papal conclave which selected Pope Paul VI.

He also voted in the conclaves of August and October 1978, and finally resigned from his post in Mechelen-Brussel on 4 October 1979 after seventeen years of service.

Second Vatican Council[edit]

When Pope John called the world's bishops to Rome for the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), he found in Suenens a man who shared his views on the need for renewal in the Church. When the first session fell into organizational chaos under the weight of its documents, it was Suenens who, at the invitation of the Pope, rescued it from deadlock and essentially set the agenda for the entire Council.

Paul VI made him one of the four moderators of the Council, along with Cardinals Grégoire-Pierre Agagianian, Julius Döpfner, and Giacomo Lercaro. Suenens was also believed to be a decisive force behind the Conciliar documents Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes.

Death[edit]

Suenens died from thrombosis in Brussels at age 91,[2] and was buried at St. Rumbolds Cathedral. At the time of his death he was one of the four living Cardinals elevated by Pope John XXIII

Views[edit]

Reforms[edit]

After the Council, Suenens committed himself to implementing its reforms, although not without controversy.

Dialogue with the modern world[edit]

Dialogue with other Christian denominations as well as with other religions, the proper role of the laity, modernization of religious life for women,[3] collegiality,[4][5] religious liberty, collaboration and corresponsibility in the Church were among the causes he advocated at the Council.

His successor, Godfried Danneels, described him as an excellent weather-forecaster who knew from which direction the wind was blowing in the Church, and an experienced strategist who realized that he could not change the wind's direction but could set the sails to suit it. Pope John Paul II himself later attested that "Cardinal Suenens had played a decisive part in the Council".[6]

Relations with the Curia[edit]

In May 1969, an interview he gave to the French Catholic magazine Informations Catholiques Internationales in which he offered a passionate critique of the Roman Curia.[1] Eugène-Gabriel-Gervais-Laurent Tisserant subsequently demanded a retraction, but Suenens refused and declared that Tisserant's reaction as unacceptable and unfounded.[7] Ten years later, he reflected on the event and said, "There are times when loyalty demands more than keeping in step with an old piece of music. As far as I am concerned loyalty is a different kind of love. And this demands that we accept responsibility for the whole and serve the Church with as much courage and candor as possible."

Ecumenism[edit]

Committed to ecumenism, he and Archbishop Michael Ramsey of Canterbury were close friends.[8]

Marriage[edit]

During the Council's debates on marriage, Suenens accused the Church of holding procreation above conjugal love;[9] Pope Paul was greatly distressed by this and the Cardinal later denied "that he had questioned the authentic Church teaching on marriage".[10]

Humanae Vitae[edit]

According to Time Magazine, Suenens counseled the Pope against the releasing of his Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae.[11]

Orthodoxy and heterodoxy[edit]

Suenens once remarked, "If you don't believe in the Holy Spirit or Resurrection or life after death, you should leave the Church".[1]

Charismatic Renewal[edit]

He endorsed the Catholic Charismatic Renewal;[12][13] his episcopal motto was In Spiritu Sancto ("In the Holy Spirit").

Trivia[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c TIME Magazine. The Cardinal as a Critic 1 August 1969
  2. ^ ICCRS Newsletter.Leo Jozef Suenens – 1904–1996 May–June 1996
  3. ^ TIME Magazine. A Mind of Its Own 20 November 1964
  4. ^ TIME Magazine. Council on the Move 8 November 1963
  5. ^ TIME Magazine. The Prelates Speak Out 24 October 1969
  6. ^ Catholic Hawaii. Cardinal Léon-Joseph Suenens
  7. ^ Ibid.
  8. ^ Compass. Outsiders Feeling the Pain of Separation July–August 1996
  9. ^ TIME Magazine. No More Galileos 6 November 1964
  10. ^ EWTN. Marriage at Vatican II
  11. ^ TIME Magazine. Birth Control: Pronouncement Withdrawn 21 June 1968
  12. ^ TIME Magazine. The Pentecostal Tide 18 June 1973
  13. ^ Catholic Charismatic Renewal in England. What is the Nature of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal? September 2003
  14. ^ Ibid.
  15. ^ Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. SUENENS, Leo-Jozef
  16. ^ TIME Magazine. How Pope John Paul I Won 11 September 1978

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Jozef-Ernest van Roey
Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussel
1961—1979
Succeeded by
Godfried Danneels
Preceded by
Teodósio de Gouveia
Cardinal-Priest of the San Pietro in Vincoli
1962-1996
Succeeded by
Jean Marie Balland