Pope Benedict XVI Praises SHU Honorary Alumnus, Cardinal Tomas Spidlik

News Story: January 1, 2010

Cardinal Tomas Spidlik has been cited by Pope Benedict XVI for his global leadership in theological dialogue between the East and West.

The Pope offered a Mass for him on December 17th on the cardinal's 90th birthday.

The Liturgy was celebrated in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Apostolic Palace, which was designed under the supervision of Cardinal Spidlik. The Czech cardinal, a Jesuit, is a specialist in Eastern theology and spirituality, and he is the founder of the Aletti Center, which is attached to the Pontifical Oriental Institute.

The chapel is a work of Father Marko Ivan Rupnik, of the Aletti Center. It is an artistic-theological synthesis of Eastern and Western Christian spirituality, themes that are very much in evidence in Sacred Heart University’s new Chapel of the Holy Spirit, whose artwork he also designed.

In this setting, the Holy Father emphasized the important contribution of Cardinal Spidlik, "interweaving through the years a lively and, in many senses, original theological vision, in which the Christian East and West come together organically, mutually exchanging their respective gifts." The Pope continued: "Its foundation is the life of the Spirit; the beginning of knowledge: love; study: an initiation in spiritual memory; dialogue with the individual person: an indispensable criterion; and its context: the ever-living body of Christ, which is his Church.”

The Pontiff reflected on the work carried out by the Aletti Center, "which seeks to take up his precious teaching, making it fruitful with new intuitions and new investigations, also through artistic representation." Benedict stated that it seems to him "particularly beautiful to emphasize the link between theology and art that flows from the cardinal's thought."

Cardinal Spidlik "has travelled a rich itinerary of thought, always communicating with ardor and profound conviction that the center of all of revelation is a tripersonal God, and that, consequently, man created in his image is essentially a mystery of liberty and love, who is fulfilled in communion: the same mode of being as God," the Pope explained. "This communion does not exist for itself, but rather proceeds -- as the Christian East tirelessly affirms -- from the divine Persons who freely love each other.

"Liberty and love, constitutive elements of the person, are not apprehensible through rational categories, which is why the person cannot be understood, if not within the mystery of Christ, true God and true man, and in a communion with him, which becomes acceptance of the divine-human also in our existence."

Cardinal Spidlik was presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by Sacred Heart University in November 2006. The setting was the Italian Parliament. The Spidlik Center is dedicated to promoting greater ecumenical understanding and cooperation between the great Eastern and Western traditions of Christian belief.