Bernardus Johannes Alfrink

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His Eminence

Bernardus Johannes Alfrink
Cardinal, Archbishop of Utrecht
Primate of the Netherlands
Cardinal Bernardus Johannes Alfrink
ChurchLatin Church
Installed31 October 1955
Term ended6 December 1975
PredecessorJohannes de Jong
SuccessorJohannes Willebrands
Ordination15 August 1924
Consecration17 July 1951
Created cardinal28 March 1960
RankCardinal Priest
Personal details
Born5 July 1900
Nijkerk, Netherlands
Died17 December 1987 (1987-12-18) (aged 87)
Nieuwegein, Netherlands
BuriedSt. Catherine's Cathedral, Utrecht, Netherlands
DenominationRoman Catholic

Bernardus Johannes Alfrink (5 July 1900, Nijkerk, Gelderland – Nieuwegein Utrecht 17 December 1987) was a Dutch Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Utrecht from 1955 to 1975, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1960.[1]


Coat of arms of cardinal Bernardus Alfrink.

Bernardus Alfrink was born in Nijkerk, and received his first Communion in 1911. After attending the seminary in Rijsenburg and the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, he was ordained to the priesthood on 15 August 1924 by Archbishop Henricus van de Wetering. He then completed his studies at the École Biblique in Jerusalem in 1930, and did pastoral work in Utrecht until 1933. Alfrink taught at the Seminary of Rijsenburg (1933–1945) and later the Catholic University of Nijmegen (1945–1951).

On 28 May 1951 he was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Utrecht and Titular Archbishop of Tyana. Alfrink received his episcopal consecration on the following 17 July from Archbishop Paolo Giobbe, papal internuncio in The Hague, with Bishops Willem Lemmens and Jan Smit serving as co-consecrators, in St. Catherine's Cathedral.

Alfrink succeeded Cardinal Johannes de Jong as Archbishop of Utrecht on 31 October 1955 and was named Apostolic vicar of the Catholic Military vicariate of the Netherlands on 16 April 1957. He contributed to scientific publications, led the Pax Christi movement in the Netherlands,[2] and was created Cardinal-Priest of San Gioacchino ai Prati di Castello by Pope John XXIII in the consistory of 28 March 1960.

From 1962 to 1965, the Dutch primate participated at the Second Vatican Council, and sat on its Board of Presidency. During one session of the Council, Alfrink had Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani's microphone turned off after the latter exceeded his time limit.[3]

Alfrink was one of the cardinal electors in the 1963 papal conclave, which selected Pope Paul VI. Along with Cardinal Giovanni Colombo, he assisted Cardinal Achille Liénart in delivering one of the closing messages of the Council on 8 December 1965.[4]

He also served as President of the Episcopal Conference of the Netherlands. Resigning as Utrecht's archbishop on 6 December 1975, he later voted in the conclaves of August and October 1978, which selected Popes John Paul I and John Paul II respectively.

He died in Nieuwegein at age 87, and after his funeral services in St. Catharine's Cathedral, was buried at St. Barbara's cemetery, next to his predecessor.



Viewed as a liberal,[5][6] he once said, "It is always a good thing for the Church to move forward. It is not good if the Church comes to a standstill."[7]


While coadjutor, he announced that the Dominican chapel in Huissen, where a large amount of Catholics were going to confession instead of at the local parishes, would be closed to the public, resulting in the dismay and violent reaction of many.[8]

Edward Schillebeeckx[edit]

Alfrink supported Edward Schillebeeckx and took his condemnation as an offence to the Dutch Church.[9]

Humanae vitae[edit]

During his tenure, Alfrink and his fellow Dutch clergymen attacked the argumentation used in Pope Paul's 1968 encyclical Humanae vitae.[10]

Royal conversion[edit]

He refused to respond to the Dutch Reformed Church's call for clarification in regards to Princess Irene's conversion to Catholicism.[11]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 1986 he received the Four Freedom Award for the Freedom of Worship[12]


His father's name was Theodorus, and the priest who baptized him was Johannes Verstege.


  1. ^ "Alfrink, Bernard Jan Cardinal". Who Was Who in America, 1993–1996, vol. 11. New Providence, N.J.: Marquis Who's Who. 1996. p. 4. ISBN 0837902258.
  2. ^ "Seven New Hats". 14 March 1960.
  3. ^ "What Went Wrong With Vatican II".
  4. ^ "To Rulers". Archived from the original on 3 April 2007.
  5. ^ "The Council's Prospects". 14 September 1962.
  6. ^ "Council of Renewal". 5 October 1962.
  7. ^ "The Radical, Revolutionary Church of The Netherlands". 31 March 1967.
  8. ^ "The Dominicans' Door". 21 January 1952. [Subscription needed to see full article.]
  9. ^ "Theologian on Trial". 4 October 1968.
  10. ^ "Declaration of Independence". 17 January 1969.
  11. ^ "Love with the Proper Stranger". 21 February 1964.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 March 2015. Retrieved 2015-09-23.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Pietro Doimo Munzani
Titular Archbishop of Tyana
28 May 1951 – 31 October 1955
Succeeded by
Primo Principi
Preceded by
Johannes de Jong
Archbishop of Utrecht
31 October 1955 – 6 December 1975
Succeeded by
Johannes Willebrands
New title Apostolic vicar of the Military vicariate of the Netherlands
New title Cardinal Priest of San Gioacchino ai Prati di Castello
28 March 1960 – 17 December 1987
Succeeded by
Michele Giordano
Preceded by
Maurice Feltin
International President of Pax Christi
Succeeded by
Luigi Bettazzi