For twelve of the 26 years of John Paul II’s pontificate, between 1989 and 2001, Australian Cardinal Edward Cassidy, who died in Newcastle (Australia) on Saturday April 10 at the age of 96, chaired the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the Unity of Christians, in which he notably contributed to the rapprochement with the Lutherans and the Methodists.
It is in this capacity that he signed, in 1999, in Augsburg (Germany), a historical document on a theological question that has divided Christian Churches throughout history: are we saved by our works or by her faith ? This Joint Declaration on Justification was also signed by Bishop Christian Krause, President of the Lutheran World Federation. Following the federation, three other Christian churches signed this text.
A year earlier, in March 1998, John Paul II had addressed to the Australian cardinal, also president of the Pontifical Commission for the dialogue with Judaism, an important letter entitled “We remember: a reflection on the Shoah”.
In the diplomatic service of the Holy See
It was already almost half a century since this native of Sydney had been ordained priest, in 1949, for the diocese of Wagga Wagga. After a few years as a parish vicar, he was sent to Rome to study canon law at the Pontifical Lateran University. From 1953, he also attended the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, before entering the diplomatic service of the Holy See and being sent to numerous nunciatures.
Cardinal Cassidy was first posted to India (1955-1962), before spending five years in Ireland (1962-1967), then two years in El Salvador (1967-1969), and one year in Argentina.
It was in 1970 that he received episcopal ordination. He was then appointed apostolic pro-nuncio in Taiwan (Republic of China) by Paul VI. The Australian cardinal subsequently represented the Holy See in Bangladesh, which had just gained its independence (1973-1979), in Lesotho and South Africa, then under apartheid regime (1979-1984), and in the Netherlands. Low (1984-1988).
It was finally in Rome that he concluded his long service in the Roman Curia: in 1988, he was appointed Substitute for General Affairs, then, the following year, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. John Paul II created him cardinal during the consistory of June 28, 1991. He had not been an elector since 2004.