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Because he was a German!: Cardinal Bea and the Origins of Roman Catholic Engagement in the Ecumenical Movement
Vereb, Jerome-Michael
Eerdmans, 2006
ISBN: 978-0-8028-2885-9


The Roman Catholic Church has been remarkably active in ecumenical discussions in the last number of years, but that has not always been the case.

“Because He Was a German!” describes the dramatic process that led to the Vatican Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, and the definitive commitment of the Roman Catholic Church to the universal ecumenical movement. It gives insightful profiles of the principal actors in this ecumenical drama — Pope John XXIII, Cardinal Lorenz Jaeger of Paderborn, Germany, and Cardinal Augustin Bea, S.J. — in the political, social, and theological ambivalence of a postwar divided Germany. It also provides insight into the negotiations that paved the way for the unprecedented ecumenical openness of Vatican II.

An engaging story, “Because He Was a German!” opens a window into the events that have shaped the modern Catholic Church and highlights the context shaping the theological development of Pope Benedict XVI.

Renato Cardinal Martino (President, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace)
“ ‘Because He Was a German!’ elucidates the environment from which our new Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has emerged. . . . I hope that the reader will enjoy these pages, and I pray that what they signify may have a positive and lasting effect upon the world as it moves toward consistency and space through the Light of Christ.”

Fr. James Massa (Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, US Conference of Catholic Bishops)
“For those who labor for Christian unity in what many consider to be an ‘ecumenical winter,’ the story of Augustin Bea holds out a invaluable lesson in patience and pastoral charity. Father Vereb renders an indispensable account of the events and personalities that led to the Jesuit cardinal’s emergence on the eve of Vatican II as the first President of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity.”

Bishop Brian Farrell (Secretary, Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity)
“The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity cannot but rejoice at the publication of Jerome-Michael Vereb’s detailed study of the lasting contribution to ecumenism of its own founding father, so to speak, Cardinal Augustin Bea, and the other personalities present at its birth. With intense fascination and firsthand knowledge, ‘Because He Was a German!’ tells the tale of the origins and early development of the then Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. By following the story of Augustin Bea’s personal engagement, his vision and struggles, these pages identify and describe the forces in the Church and in broader Christianity that finally led to the Catholic Church’s irrevocable commitment to the ecumenical movement, through the instrumentality of the Second Vatican Council and its decree on Ecumenism.”

“Ecumenism is not only a question of ideas; it is also importantly an unraveling of personal contacts, mutual influences and friendships, leading to the trust needed to sustain the search for unity. Here we have an important part of the story that should be read not only by the experts but also by all who wish to know how it happened.”

Additional reviews are:
Bremer, Thomas. One in Christ, 43, no. 1 (2009): 190-192.
Hill, Christiopher. Ecclesiology, 5, no. 3 (September 2009): 366-370.