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Yves-Marie-Joseph Congar, O.P.
|Cardinal Deacon of the Basilica of San Sebastiano al Palatino|
|Appointed||25 July 1930|
|Term ended||22 June 1995|
|Ordination||25 July 1930|
|Created Cardinal||26 November 1994|
8 April 1904|
Sedan, Ardennes, France
|Died||22 June 1995
Yves-Marie-Joseph Congar (Yves Marie-Joseph Congar, Yves M.J. Congar), O.P. (13 April 1904 – 22 June 1995), was a French Dominican friar, Catholic priest and theologian. He was made a cardinal of the Catholic Church in 1995.
Congar was born in Sedan in northeast France in 1904. His father Georges Congar was a bank manager. Congar's hometown was occupied by the Germans for much of World War I, and his father was among the men deported by the Germans to Lithuania. Upon the urging of his mother, Lucie (Tere), Congar recorded the occupation in an extensive series of illustrated diaries which were later published. They provide a unique historical insight into the war from a child's point of view.
Encouraged by a local priest, Daniel Lallement, Congar entered the diocesan seminary. In 1921 he moved to Paris, to study philosophy. He went to courses by Jacques Maritain, and went to retreats conducted near Paris by the Dominican theologian Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange.
Priest and POW
After a year of compulsory military service (1924-5) which Congar spent in the Rhineland, in 1925 he joined the Dominican Order at Amiens where he took "Marie-Joseph" as his name in religion. Towards the end of his theological studies from 1926-31 at Le Saulchoir, the Dominican studium and seminary, which at the time was located in Kain-la-Tombe, Belgium, and trained in historical theology, Congar was ordained a priest on 25 July 1930 by Luigi Maglione, nuncio in Paris. In 1931, Congar defended his doctorate at Le Saulchoir with a dissertation on the unity of the Church.
Congar was a faculty member at Le Saulchoir from 1931-1939 (therefore moving with the Institution in 1937 from Kain-la-Tombe to Étoilles near Paris). In 1932 he began his teaching career as Professor of Fundamental Theology, conducting a course on ecclesiology. Congar was influenced by the Dominicans Ambrose Gardeil and Marie-Dominique Chenu, by the writings of Johann Adam Möhler, and by his ecumenical contacts with Protestant and Eastern Orthodox theologians. Congar concluded that the mission of the church was impeded by what he and Chenu termed “baroque theology."
In 1937 Congar founded the Unam Sanctam series, addressing historical themes in Catholic ecclesiology.These books called for a “return to the sources” to set theological foundations for ecumenism, and the series would eventually run to 77 volumes. He wrote for a wide variety of scholarly and popular journals, and published numerous books.
During World War II Congar was drafted into the French army as a chaplain, with the rank of Lieutenant. He was captured and held from 1940 to 1945 as a prisoner of war by the Germans in Colditz and Lübeck's Oflag, after repeated attempts to escape. Later he was made a Knight (Chevalier) of the French Legion of Honour, and awarded the Médaille des Évadés and the Croix de Guerre.
Scholar and ecumenist
After the war, Congar continued to teach at Le Saulchoir, which had been returned to France, and to write, eventually becoming one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century on the topic of the Roman Catholic Church and ecumenism.
Congar was an early advocate of the ecumenical movement, encouraging openness to ideas stemming from the Eastern Orthodox Church and Protestant Christianity. He promoted the concept of a "collegial" papacy and criticised the Roman Curia, ultramontanism and the clerical pomp that he observed at the Vatican. He also promoted the role of lay people in the church. Congar worked closely with the founder of the Young Christian Workers, Joseph Cardijn, for decades.
From 1947 to 1956 Congar’s controversial writing was restricted by the Vatican. One of his most important books, True and False Reform in the Church, (1950) and all of its translations were forbidden by Rome in 1952. Congar was prevented from teaching or publishing from 1954, during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII, following publication of an article in support of the ‘worker-priest’ movement in France. He was subsequently assigned to minor posts in Jerusalem, Rome, Cambridge and Strasbourg. Eventually, in 1956, Archbishop Jean Julien Weber of Strasbourg assisted Congar in returning to France.
Congar's reputation recovered in 1960 when Pope John XXIII invited him to serve on the preparatory theological commission of the Second Vatican Council. Although Congar had little influence on the preparatory schemas, as the council progressed he became known as a theological expert. Congar has since been described as the single most formative influence on Vatican II.
Congar was a member of several committees that worked on the drafting of conciliar texts, an experience that he documented in great detail in his daily journal. The journal extended from mid-1960 through to December 1965. Congar decided that it should not be released until the year 2000. The journal was recently published in Journal d’un theologien 1946–1956 and My Journal of the Council, published in French in 2002 and in English translation in 2012.
After the council, Congar said “respecting many questions, the council remained incomplete. It began a work which is not finished, whether it is a matter of collegiality, of the role of the laity, of missions and even of ecumenism.” Congar's work focused increasingly on the theology of the Holy Spirit from this time. He was also a member of the International Theological Commission from 1969 to 1985.
Congar continued to lecture and write, publishing work on wide ranging topics including Mary, the Eucharist, lay ministry and the Holy Spirit, as well as his diaries. His works include The Meaning of Tradition, I Believe in the Holy Spirit, and After Nine Hundred Years, which addresses the East-West Schism.
In 1935 Congar was diagnosed with a form of sclerosis which increasingly affected his mobility and writing ability, and made his scholarly research difficult. He became a resident at the Military Hôpital des Invalides in Paris from 1986.
Cardinal and death
- Chrétiens désunis: Principes d'un 'oecuménisme' catholique, (Paris: Cerf, 1937), translated as Divided Christendom: a Catholic Study of the Problem of Reunion, trans MA Bousfield, (London: Bles, 1939).
- Vraie et fausse réforme dans l’Eglise, (Paris: Editions du Cerf, 1950). A second edition was issued in 1968. Translated as True and False Reform in the Church, trans Paul Philibert, (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2011).
- Jalons pour un théologie du laicat, (1953)
- Leur résistance, 195? 
- La Tradition et les traditions: essai historique, (Paris, 1960), issued in translation in Tradition and Traditions: An historical and a theological essay, trans Michael Naseby and Thomas Rainborough, (London, 1966).
- Aspects de l'oecuménisme, (Bruxelles/Paris, 1962)
- La Foi et la Théologie, (Tournai, 1962)
- The Mystery of the Temple, or the Manner of God's Presence to His Creatures from Genesis to the Apocalypse, trans Reginald Frederick Trevett, (London, 1962).
- La Tradition et les traditions: essai théologique, (Paris, 1963), issued in translation in Tradition and Traditions: An historical and a theological essay, trans Michael Naseby and Thomas Rainborough, (London, 1966)
- Report from Rome: on the First Session of the Vatican Council, translated by A. Mason, London: Chapman, 1963
- Report from Rome II: The Second Session of the Vatican Council, London: Chapman, 1964
- Power and Poverty in the Church, translated by Jennifer Nicholson, London: Chapman, 1964
- Lay People in the Church, translated by Donald Attwater, London: Chapman, 1965
- Dialogue Between Christians: Catholic Contributions to Ecumenism, trans Philip Loretz, (London: G Chapman, 1966).
- Je crois en l'Esprit Saint, 3 vols, translated as I Believe in the Holy Spirit, 3 vols
- Mon Journal du Concile, (1946–1956), ed. with notes Éric Mahieu, (Paris: Cerf, 2002).
- My Journal of the Council, English translation by Mary John Ronayne and Mary Cecily Boulding, Adelaide: ATF Theology, 2012
- Doyle, D.M., 'Journet, Congar, and the Roots of Communion Ecclesiology' Theological Studies 58 (1997): 461–479.
- Hastings, Adrian, Modern Catholicism (1999, Oxford University Press)
- "Congar, Ivo". Araldica Vaticana.
- Recommended by P. R. Reid in his memoir of Colditz Castle, The Latter Days, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1953, p. 9.
- Yves Congar on Encyclopædia Britannica
- Yves Congar on catholic-hierarchy.org
- Yves Congar: Apostle of Patience
- Yves Congar's pneumatology
- Works by or about Yves Congar in libraries (WorldCat catalog)