File:Card Bea.jpg

Augustin Bea, SJ (May 28, 1881 – November 16, 1968) was a German scholar at the Gregorian University specializing in bibical studies and bibical archeology. He was confessor of Pope Pius XII. In 1959, Pope John XXIII made him cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as the first President of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity from 1960 until his death. Bea was a leading Biblical scholar and ecumenist, who greatly influenced relations to other Christians and Jews during the Second Vatican Council in Nostra Aetate. Bea published several books mostly in Latin and 430 articles.


Augustin Bea was born in Riedböhringen, today a part of Blumberg, Baden-Württemberg; his father was a carpenter. He studied at the Universities of Freiburg, Innsbruck, Berlin, and at Valkenburg, the Jesuit house of studies in the Netherlands. On April 18, 1902, he joined the Society of Jesus, as he "was much inclined to the scholarly life"[1]. Bea was ordained a priest on August 25, 1912, and finished his studies in 1914. He then served as Superior of the Jesuit residence in Aachen until 1917, at which time he began teaching Scripture at Valkenburg. From 1921 to 1924, Bea was the provincial superior of Germany. Superior General Wlodimir Ledochowski then sent him to Rome, where he worked as the Superior of the Biennial House of Formation (1924-1928), professor at the Pontifical Biblical Institute (1924-1949), and rector of the Institute of Superior Ecclesiastical Studies (1924-1930). In 1930, Bea was named rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute, a post in which he remained for nineteen years.


Raised to the rank of cardinal before his episcopal consecration, Bea was created Cardinal Deacon of S. Saba by Pope John XXIII in the consistory of December 14, 1959. On June 6, 1960, he was appointed the first president of the newly-formed Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, a Curial organization charged with ecumenical affairs. It was not until two years later that, on April 5, 1962, Cardinal Bea was appointed a bishop: the Titular Archbishop of Germania in Numidia. He received his consecration on the following April 19 from John XXIII himself, with Cardinals Giuseppe Pizzardo and Benedetto Aloisi Masella serving as co-consecrators, in the Lateran Basilica. He resigned his post as titular archbishop in 1963, one year after the Second Vatican Council was convened.

The Cardinal was one of the electors in the 1963 papal conclave, which selected Pope Paul VI, and was confirmed as the President of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity (renamed as the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity by Pope John Paul II on June 28, 1988) on January 3, 1966.


Cardinal Bea liked to visit his native Black Forest

Bea died from a bronchial infection in Rome, at age 87[2]. He was buried in the apse of the parish church of St. Genesius in his native Riedböhringen, where there also exists a museum dedicated to his honor.

Impact and influences

Vatican II

Bea was highly influential at the Vatican II Council in the 1960s, being a decisive force in the drafting of Nostra Aetate, which repudiated anti-Semitism. John Borelli, a Vatican II historian, has observed that, “It took the will of John XXIII and the perseverance of Cardinal Bea to impose the declaration on the Council” [3]. During a session of the Central Preparatory Commission, he also rejected the proposition that the Council Fathers take an oath composed of the Nicene Creed and the Anti-Modernist Oath[4]. After Alfredo Ottaviani, the heavily conservative head of the Holy Office, presented his draft of the schema on the sources of Divine Revelation, Bea claimed that it "would close the door to intellectual Europe and the outstretched hands of friendship in the old and new world"[5]. He served on numerous ecumenical bodies and was the author of nine works, including The Church and the Jewish People (New York: Harper & Row, 1966).

Pope Pius XII

Bea was, for a short interval, a confessor to Pope Pius XII. He had immense impact on the composition and publication of the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu, along with Jacques-Marie Voste, O.P. (secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission).[6][7]

Pius XII wanted to elevate Bea to the College of Cardinals in 1946, but Superior General Jean-Baptiste Janssens urged the Pope against the idea, as many already saw the Vatican as showing preferential treatment to the Jesuits[8].

Poem of the Man God

As confessor to Pope Pius XII, Bea was instrumental in bypassing the Vatican hierarchy to help Father Corrado Berti deliver a copy of the book Poem of the Man God to Pope Pius XII when Father Berti approached both Bea and Mnsgr Alphonso Carinci with a typed copy of the manuscript of Maria Valtorta's writings in 1947.[9][10] Bea was impressed with the book and later wrote that he found the Poem of the Man God "not only interesting and pleasing, but truly edifying". [11] With his assistance the manuscript was thus delivered to Pius XII and Father Berti and Father Migliorini were granted a papal audience.[12] in which Pius XII reportedly gave his verbal approval for the book's publication.[13]


  • His personal assistant was fellow Jesuit, Fr. Malachi Martin.
  • Among the other offices he once held during his priestly career, Bea was consultor to several Roman congregations.
  • During intense debate concerning the adoption of the draft text of Nostra Aetate on the Church's relations with the Jews, Cardinal Bea was denounced by one prelate as being of Jewish descent: his family name was claimed to have been, originally, "Behar." The question is still controverted in some quarters.

Books about Augustin Bea

  • Malachi Martin, Three Popes and the Cardinal, Farrar, Straus and Giroux , New York, 1972, ISBN 0374276757
  • Stephan Schmidt, Der Mensch Bea Aufzeichnungen des Cardinals, transl: Augustin Cardinal Bea, Spiritual Profile, Chapman, London, 1971
  • Stephan Schmidt, Augustin Bea, Cardinal der Einheit, Köln, 1989; transl: Augustin Bea, The Cardinal of Unity, New City Press, 1992

Books published by Augustin Bea

  • Mariology:
    • Maria in der Offenbarung Katholische Marienkunde Bd. I Hugo Rahner, Augustin Bea, Schöningh, Paderborn, 1947
    • Imagen de Maria en la Antigua Alianza, Buenos Aires, Revista Biblica,1954
  • De Pentateucho Institutiones Biblicaa Scholis Accomodatae, Romae, 1933
  • De Inspiratione Sacrae Scripturae, Romae, 1935
  • Archeologica biblica, Romae, 1939
  • La nuova traduzione Latina del Salterio, RomaE 1946
  • Liber Ecclesiasticae qui ab Hebraeis appelatur Qohelet, Romae, 1950
  • Canticum Canticorum Salamonis, Romae, 1953
  • Cor Jesu Commentationes in Litteras encyclicas Pii Papae XII Haurietis Aquas, Herder Freiburg 1959

Articles published by Augustin Bea

  • Augustin Bea published 430 articles in the years 1918–1968. They dealt with archeological issues, exegesis of old testament texts, mariology, papal encyclicals, the unity of Christians, anti-semitism, Vatican II, relations to Protestantism and the eastern Orthodox Churches, and ecumenicism.


  1. Time Magazine. The Supreme Realist July 6, 1962
  2. Time Magazine. Recent Events November 22, 1968
  3. Tracing the Contemporary Roots of Interreligious Dialogue
  4. Time Magazine. The Supreme Realist July 6, 1962
  5. Time Magazine. The Cardinal's Setback November 23, 1962
  6. America Magazine Biblical Scholarship 50 years After Divino Afflante Spiritu
  7. Time Magazine. The Catholic Scholars May 3, 1963
  8. Time Magazine. Eight New Hats November 30, 1959
  9. Father Berti and Bea A Testimony on Maria Valtorta's Poem of the Man-God
  10. Fr. Berti's annotations to Maria Valtorta's Libro di Azaria (Book of Azaria), Edizioni Pisani, 1972.
  11. Valtorta Publishing The Poem of the Man God
  12. L'Osservatore Romano February 27, 1948.
  13. Valepic An introduction to Maria Valtorta an her Epic Narrative The Poem of the Man God
Styles of
Augustin Bea
CardinalCoA PioM
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
See Germania in Numidia (titular)

External links

als:Augustin Beagl:Augustin Beala:Augustinus Beano:Augustin Beapt:Agostinho Bea

fi:Augustin Bea

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