Renowned Theologian Cardinal Grech Dies at Age 94

After pursuing further studies at both Oxford and Cambridge, Cardinal Grech returned to Rome, where he served as an expert at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and taught at several universities attached to the Holy See.

Cardinal Prosper Grech.
Cardinal Prosper Grech. (photo: Alan Holdren/CNA)

VATICAN CITY — Cardinal Prosper Grech, an internationally renowned theologian, died on Monday at the age of 94.

Cardinal Grech was born on the island of Malta on Christmas Eve, 1925. He entered the Augustinian Order at the age of 29 and was ordained a priest in Rome in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in 1950.

By 1953 he had completed his studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University, obtaining his licentiate and doctorate in sacred theology, and went on to receive a further licentiate from the Pontifical Biblical Institute.

After pursuing further studies at both Oxford and Cambridge, Cardinal Grech returned to Rome, where he served as an expert at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and taught at several universities attached to the Holy See.

In 1961 he was appointed the secretary of Bishop Pietro Canisio Van Lierde, who was a sacristan of the apostolic palace and vicar general for Vatican City State.

In this role as priest-secretary, it happened that during the conclave of June 1963, that which elected St. Pope Paul VI, Cardinal Grech encountered the then-Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini in the apostolic palace. Montini asked if he was the confessor of the conclave. Grech said he was not, but Montini asked if he could hear his confession nonetheless. A few hours later, Montini was elected pope.

In a 2013 interview, Cardinal Grech recounted the story, saying that he hoped he did not give the future Pope Paul VI “too arduous a penance.”

Cardinal Grech founded the Augustinian Patristic Institute at the Lateran University, serving as its first president from 1971-1979.

Cardinal Grech also taught hermeneutics at the Pontifical Biblical Institute for over thirty years.

In 1984 he was appointed as an expert consultor to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In 2003 he was named a member of the Pontifical Theological Academy, and in 2004 he joined the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

He was created a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, but, being over 80 at the time of Pope Benedict’s resignation, was too old to vote in the conclave of March 2013. He did lead a meditation for the cardinal-electors gathered in the Sistine Chapel before the start of voting.

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