Jump to content

Eugène Tisserant

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Eugène Tisserant
Dean of the College of Cardinals
Photograph by Walter Sanders, April 1948
ChurchRoman Catholic Church
Appointed13 January 1951
Term ended21 February 1972
PredecessorFrancesco Marchetti Selvaggiani
SuccessorAmleto Giovanni Cicognani
Other post(s)
Ordination4 August 1907
by Charles-François Turinaz
Consecration25 July 1937
by Eugenio Pacelli
Created cardinal15 June 1936
by Pius XI
RankCardinal Bishop
Personal details
Eugène Gabriel Gervais Laurent Tisserant

(1884-03-24)24 March 1884
Died21 February 1972(1972-02-21) (aged 87)
Albano Laziale, Province of Rome, Italy
DenominationRoman Catholic
Previous post(s)
Styles of
Eugène Tisserant
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal
SeePorto e Santa Rufina (suburbicarian),
Ostia (suburbicarian)

Eugène-Gabriel-Gervais-Laurent Tisserant[1] (pronounced [øʒɛn ɡabʁijɛl ʒɛʁvɛ loʁɑ̃ tisʁɑ̃]; 24 March 1884 – 21 February 1972) was a French prelate and cardinal of the Catholic Church. Elevated to the cardinalate in 1936, Tisserant was a prominent and long-time member of the Roman Curia.

Early life and ordination[edit]

Tisserant was born in Nancy to Hippolyte and Octavée (née Connard) Tisserant.[2] From 1900 to 1904, he studied theology, Sacred Scripture, Hebrew, Syriac, Old Testament, and Oriental Patrology at the seminary in Nancy. He then studied in Jerusalem under Marie-Joseph Lagrange, O.P., but returned to France in 1905 for military service. On 4 August 1907, Tisserant was ordained a priest by Charles-François Turinaz, Bishop of Nancy.

Professor and prelate[edit]

Tisserant served as a professor at the Pontifical Roman Athenaeum S. Apollinare and curator at the Vatican Library from 1908 to 1914, at which time he became an intelligence officer in the French Army during World War I. He was reportedly fluent in thirteen languages: Amharic, Arabic, Akkadian, English, French (native language), German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Persian, Russian and Syriac.[3]

Named assistant librarian of the Vatican Library in 1919 and Monsignor in 1921, Tisserant became Pro-Prefect of the Vatican Library on 15 November 1930 and was named a protonotary apostolic on 13 January 1936.

Cardinal and curial appointments[edit]

Portrait of Cardinal Tisserant by Serge Ivanoff, 1937

In the consistory of 15 June 1936, Tisserant was created Cardinal Deacon by Pope Pius XI, assigned as his titular church the Basilica of Santi Vito, Modesto e Crescenzia. He was raised to the rank of Cardinal Priest soon afterwards, retaining the same title. On 25 June 1937, Tisserant was appointed the Titular Archbishop of Iconium by Pope Pius XI. he received his consecration on the following 25 July from Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII), with Archbishop Giuseppe Migone and Bishop Charles-Joseph-Eugène Ruch serving as co-consecrators, in St. Peter's Basilica. He participated in the conclave of 1939, which elected Pacelli as Pope Pius XII. With the new pontiff's permission, he switched from his titular church to that of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

Tisserant held a number of offices in the Roman Curia. He served as secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches (1936–1959), as president of the Pontifical Biblical Commission (1938–1946) and as Prefect of the Congregation of Ceremonies (1951–1967). From 1957 to 1971, he served as Librarian and Archivist of the Holy Roman Church. Under Pius XII, Tisserant also headed a commission to investigate alleged abuses of appointments in the Order of Malta, which concluded that there was no wrongdoing.[3]

In 1939, Tisserant urged Pius XII to promulgate an encyclical "on the duty of Catholics to resist the unjust orders of an authoritarian state."[4] After the outbreak of World War II, Pius XII refused to release Tisserant as the head of the Vatican Library, preventing him from returning to France to serve in the army.[3]

In 1946, Tisserant was elevated to the rank of Cardinal Bishop by Pope Pius, taking the title of Porto e Santa Rufina in 1946. After serving as vice-dean of the College of Cardinals from 1947 to 1951, he became dean and Cardinal Bishop of Ostia on 13 January 1951. As dean of the Sacred College, he presided at the Funeral Masses of Popes Pius XII and John XXIII and presided over the conclaves to elect their successors in 1958 and 1963. During the 1958 conclave, he was seen as papabile by most Vatican-watchers, and it is generally believed that he received at least five votes in the early balloting.[5] In 1956, Tisserant received an honorary doctorate from Coimbra University, and in 1961, he was elected a member of the Académie Française.

Second Vatican Council and beyond[edit]

From 1962 to 1965, Tisserant attended the Second Vatican Council and sat on its Board of Presidency. As Dean of the College of Cardinals, he was the celebrant of the Mass coram Summo Pontifice at the opening ceremony of the council, before the Pope delivered the council's opening address and the other rites specific to the opening of a general council were performed.

He is said to have participated in negotiating a secret 1960s agreement between Soviet and Vatican officials that authorised Eastern Orthodox participation in the Second Vatican Council in exchange for a noncondemnation of atheistic communism during the conciliar assemblies.[6][7] As Dean of the Sacred College, he was the first person after Pope Paul VI to sign each of the acts of the Second Vatican Council.

In 1962, Tisserant became Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, a position that he held until his death. In 1969, he demanded a retraction from Cardinal Leo Joseph Suenens, Archbishop of Brussels-Mechelen, for the "defamatory and slanderous" statements that he allegedly made against the bureaucracy of the Roman Curia.[5] In 1970, when Paul VI's new retirement rules restricted the right to vote in papal conclaves to cardinals under age 80, Tisserant, then 86, objected on the basis that each cardinal's health should determine his fitness and suggested that 73-year-old Paul VI seemed frail.[8]


Tisserant died in 1972 from a heart attack in Albano Laziale, at age 87. Pope Paul VI took part in his funeral service.[9] He is buried in the Basilica of Porto e Santa Rufina in Rome.[10]

Ordination history of
Eugène Tisserant
Priestly ordination
Ordained byCharles-François Turinaz (Nancy)
Date4 August 1907
Episcopal consecration
Principal consecratorEugenio Card Pacelli (Gio & Pao)
Co-consecratorsGiuseppe Migone (Nicomedia tit)
Charles Ruch (Strasbourg)
Date25 July 1937
Elevated byPius XI
Date15 June 1936
Episcopal succession
Bishops consecrated by Eugène Tisserant as principal consecrator
Alberto Gori27 December 1949
Sebastian Vayalil9 November 1950
Diego Venini4 February 1951
Hailé Mariam Cahsai1 May 1951
Ghebre Jesus Jacob1 May 1951
Paolo Bertoli11 May 1952
Pietro Sfair24 May 1953
Raffaele Forni13 September 1953
Joseph Parecattil30 November 1953
Giovanni Battista Montini12 December 1954

See also[edit]


  1. ^ His surname is sometimes misspelled Tisserand, as in the list of the members of the Académie française. Archived 8 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church – June 15, 1936". cardinals.fiu.edu. Retrieved 26 December 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Murphy, Paul I; Arlington, R. Rene (1983). La Popessa. New York: Warner Books Inc. pp. 195-194, 261-262. ISBN 0-446-51258-3.
  4. ^ "Open City, Silent City". Time. 3 April 1964. Archived from the original on 1 October 2007. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  5. ^ a b "The Cardinal as Critic". Time. 1 August 1969. Archived from the original on 14 December 2008. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  6. ^ Chiron, Yves, Paul VI: Le pape écartelé, Perrin, Paris, 1993 ISBN 2-262-00952-X p. 186 and 246
  7. ^ Interview with Paul-Joseph Schmitt, Archbishop of Metz, in Le Lorrain, 9 March 1963 [dubiousdiscuss]
  8. ^ "Crítica de dos Cardenales contra el Papa Paulo VI" (in Spanish). UP. 26 November 1970. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  9. ^ "Pope Takes Part in Funeral for Cardinal Tisserant". The New York Times. 25 February 1972. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  10. ^ "Recent Deaths". Time. 6 March 1972. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 13 June 2012.

Further reading[edit]

  • Carroll, Rory and Goñi, Uki. 2008. "The Hunt for Doctor Death". The Guardian (London) 8 January.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Dean of the College of Cardinals
13 January 1951 – 21 February 1972
Succeeded by
Preceded by Archivist of the Holy Roman Church
14 September 1957 – 27 March 1971
Succeeded by
Preceded by Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
19 August 1960 – 21 February 1972
Succeeded by