Cardinal Georges Cottier, former theologian of papal household, dies
Cardinal Georges Cottier, former theologian of the papal household, died last week at the age of 93.
Sending his condolences to the Swiss cardinal’s sister, Pope Francis said he would be remembered particularly for “his strong faith, paternal kindness and intense cultural and ecclesial activity, especially in the service of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI as theologian of the papal household.”
Cardinal Cottier, born on 25th April 1922, in Carouge, Switzerland, joined the Dominican order in 1945, was ordained a priest in 1951 and studied at Rome’s Angelicum University from 1946 to 1952. St. John Paul named him a cardinal in 2003.
He had served as a theological expert at the Second Vatican Council, as secretary of the International Theological Commission and was theologian of the papal household from 1989 to 2005, retiring at the age of 83.
Just prior to his retirement, Cardinal Cottier told Catholic News Service that the papal theologian’s main task is to vet the many thousands of words prepared by Vatican aides for the pope to speak or publish. He checks for statements of dubious theology and otherwise hazardous phrases that could come back to haunt the pope.
Part of the task, the cardinal said, is to be careful not to make the pope say too much about some topics. “By this, I mean that when we have a theological issue that is still open to discussion and study, it’s not a good thing that the pope pronounce on it too early. Because when the pope speaks with authority, it means the discussion is closed,” he said.
Well into retirement, Cardinal Cottier was a featured speaker at Vatican conferences and was an expert sought out by Catholic media. His death leaves the College of Cardinals with 215 members, 116 of whom are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave.