Today saw the birth of a Jesuit who was seen by many as the father and pioneer of ecumenism. Augustin Cardinal Bea was born in Riedböhringen, Germany on the 28th May 1881, he entered the Jesuits in 1902 at the age of 21. Originally trained as an Old Testament exegete, from 1924 until 1949, Bea taught courses in the Bible at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome where he served as Rector from 1930 until 1949.
He assisted Pope Pius XII with his encyclical on the sacred liturgy, Mediator Dei, which suggested new directions and active participation instead of a merely passive role of the faithful in the liturgy. This anticipated many of the liturgical reforms of Vatican II. Bea also assisted in drafting Pius XII's encyclical on biblical studies, Divino Afflante Spiritu. This called for new translations of the Bible from the original languages, instead of the venerable Latin Vulgate of St Jerome. It inaugurated the modern period of Roman Catholic Bible studies by encouraging the study of textual criticism. Raymond E. Brown described it as a 'Magna Carta for biblical progress'.
Pope John XXIII made Bea a cardinal in 1959, and he became that Pope's closest advisor. When John XXIII began preparations for the Vatican II (1962–1965), he commissioned Bea to draft a document on the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people for the Council to discuss. The text Bea wrote was revised and expanded, and eventually became Vatican II's famous Declaration on the Church's Relation to Non-Christian Religions, Nostra Aetate. Bea was an important figure at the Council. He contributed significantly to the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, for which he was the Co-President of the commission responsible for drafting the document. In 1960, two years before the Vatican II, John XXIII appointed Bea as the first President of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. From then on his work focused on ecumenism. In 1968 Bea died at the age of 87.