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Edward Cornelis Florentius Alfonsus Schillebeeckx (12 November, 1914 in Antwerp, Belgiummarker) is a Belgianmarker Roman Catholic theologian.

He is a member of the Dominican Order. His books on theology have been translated into many languages, and his contributions to the Second Vatican Council have made him known throughout the world.

Early life and ordination

After being educated by the Jesuits at Turnhoutmarker, Schillebeeckx entered the Dominican Order in 1934. He studied theology and philosophy at the University of Louvain. In 1941 he was ordained to the priesthood. From 1943 onwards he taught at Louvain on Thomas Aquinas and thomism. From 1945 to 1947 he studied at the Dominican study centre Le Saulchoir near Paris, where Marie-Dominique Chenu and Yves Congar introduced him to modern theology.

Doctoral thesis

During these years he also studied at the Sorbonnemarker. In 1952 he defended and published his doctoral thesis, De sacramentele heilseconomie (The redeeming economy of the sacraments). The Catholic University of Nijmegenmarker in the Netherlands made him a professor of dogmatic theology and history of theology in 1958. His inaugural lecture Op zoek naar de levende God (Searching the living God) introduced Dutch theologians to the Nouvelle Théologie founded by Chenu, Yves Congar, Hans Urs von Balthasar and others.

Second Vatican Council

During the Second Vatican Council, Schillebeeckx's articles influenced some of the major proposals for constitutions, documents which were distributed to all participants for discussion, debate, and approval. In this way his influence was far greater than that of a formal peritus, a status the Dutch bishops had not granted to him. In 1965, together with Chenu, Cardinal Congar, Karl Rahner, and Hans Küng he founded the new theological journal Concilium, which promoted "reformist" thought.


In the late sixties and early seventies Schillebeeckx turned from thomism to exegesis. He confronted such debated questions as the position of priests and the obligation to celibacy. He was an influential participant at the National Pastoral Council (Landelijk Pastoraal Concilie) held at Noordwijkerhoutmarker from 1968 to 1970. At the sessions of this synod, the Dutch bishops, intellectuals, and representatives from many Catholic organisations tried to implement what they perceived as the major progressive objectives of the Second Vatican Council. He was by then known as the leading Dutch-speaking contemporary theologian.

Books on Jesus

Schillebeeckx's books on Jesus gained a wide readership. His orthodoxy was called into question by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and he had to go to Rome to explain his views. His christology was criticized by Cardinal Franjo Šeper and then-Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, who was later elected Pope Benedict XVI. Schillebeeckx was accused of denying the resurrection of Christ as an objective fact of faith. Even so, he was mentioned as a candidate for the cardinalate.

Schillebeeckx continued to publish after his retirement. A major study on sacramental theology is still expected to appear. His oeuvre, surveyed in several bibliographies, has been the subject of many studies and controversies.

Late life

He presently lives in Nijmegenmarker, in the Netherlandsmarker, where he taught at the Catholic University of Nijmegen until his retirement. He was awarded the Gouden Ganzenveer in 1989.

Selective bibliography

  • De sacramentele heilseconomie (Antwerp 1952)
  • Christus, sacrament van de Godsontmoeting (Bilthoven 1959)
  • Op zoek naar de levende God (Nimwegen 1959)
  • Openbaring en theologie (Bilthoven 1964) (Theologische Peilingen, 1) - tr. Revelation and theology (London 1979)
  • God en mens (Bilthoven 1965) (Theologische Peilingen, 2)
  • Wereld en kerk (Bilthoven 1966) (Theologische Peilingen, 3)
  • De zending van de kerk (Bilthoven 1968) (Theologische Peilingen, 4)
  • Jezus, het verhaal van een levende (Bloemendaal 1974) - tr. Jesus: an experiment in Christology (London 1979; New York 1981)
  • Gerechtigheid en liefde, genade en bevrijding (Bloemendaal 1977) - tr. Christ: the Christian experience in the modern world (London 1980)
  • Pleidooi voor mensen in de kerk. Christelijke identiteit en ambten in de kerk (Baarn 1985) - tr. The Church with a human face: a new and expanded theology of ministry (New York 1985)
  • Als politiek niet alles is... Jezus in de westerse cultuur (Baarn 1986) - tr. On Christian faith: the spiritual, ethical and political dimensions (New York 1984)
  • Mensen als verhaal van God (Baarn 1989) - tr. Church. The human story of God (New York 1990)
  • The Eucharist (2005/1948)

See also


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