Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, Vice Dean of the College of Cardinals, President emeritus of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace and Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", was born September 25, 1922 in Espelette, diocese of Bayonne, France. His father was an agricultural mechanic. After studying at the minor seminary at Ustaritz, he continued his spiritual and scientific preparation at the major seminary at Bayonne and at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, obtaining a licentiate in sacred theology and a doctorate in canon law.
Ordained a priest July 13, 1947, he began his first pastoral ministry in his native diocese, that of Bayonne, before becoming, in 1961, deputy director of the secretariat of the French episcopate, and engaged, at the same time, in the creation of a secretariat for pastoral care. From 1966 to 1970, he filled the post of Secretary-General of the French episcopate, before becoming titular Bishop of Gemelle di Numidia and Auxiliary Bishop of Paris on 29 March 1969. On December 22, 1970 he became Archbishop of Marseilles (until 1984) and in 1975 succeeded Cardinal Marty as president of the French Episcopal Conference. He was re-elected on October 27, 1978 (until 1981). From 25 November 1975 until April 23, 1982, he has also been prelate of the "Mission de France".
Even before becoming a Bishop and particularly after his episcopal ordination (May 27, 1969), he played a very important part on the international ecclesial level. From 1965, the year of the close of the Second Vatican Council, he was secretary of the liaison committee of the European Episcopal Conferences, and in 1971 he became the first president of the new European Council of Episcopal Conferences. He was re-elected to the office in 1975. His term of office expired at the end of the work of the Fourth Symposium which took place in Rome from June 17-21, 1979. He was also one of the main architects of the European ecumenical meeting at Chantilly.
He also took part in the work of the Synod of Bishops and was also, in 1974, a member of the council of the Synod secretariat. His theological and socio-religious interventions recall the commitment of a living Church.
Well prepared on a theological level and thoroughly familiar with the problems of France and of the French Church, he has given lectures on his researches and reflections at important meetings and cultural center. He also has written about the most burning ecclesial and social problems, defense of human rights as a necessity of conscience and recalls the serious problem of unemployment.
On April 8, 1984 he was called to Rome and was nominated President of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace (he stayed until June 24, 1998) and President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum (he stayed until December 2, 1995). Throughout the years, Cardinal Etchegaray has always carried out an untiring service in favor of peace, human rights and needs of the poor, bringing the message and love of the Pope to many nations.
On November 15, 1994, he was named President of the Central Committee of the Holy Year 2000.
On April 30, 2005, the Holy Father Benedict XVI approved the election by the Cardinals of the Order of Bishops, of Cardinal Etchegaray as Vice Dean of the College of Cardinals.
Created and proclaimed Cardinal by John Paul II in the consistory of June 30, 1979, of the Title of the Surburbicarian Church of Porto-Santa Rufina (June 24, 1998).