He served as a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Congregation for Catholic Education, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).
The French-speaking Jesuit Province of Western Europe said that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the CDF’s then prefect who later became Pope Benedict XVI, called upon Vanhoye “whenever a pontifical text mentioned Scripture or a book commenting on Scripture posed a problem.”
“Cardinal Ratzinger appreciated this tireless worker, humble and desiring only the good of the Church,” it said.
On Feb. 22, 2006, Benedict XVI announced Vanhoye’s nomination as a cardinal. He described the Jesuit as “a great exegete” and said that he was naming Vanhoye as one of three new cardinals over 80 “out of esteem for the services they have rendered to the Church with exemplary faithfulness and admirable dedication.”
Vanhoye received the red hat on March 24, 2006, having obtained a dispensation from the requirement to be consecrated as a bishop beforehand.
In 2008, Benedict invited the cardinal to preach at the annual Lenten retreat for members of the Roman Curia. Vanhoye focused his meditations on Christ, the High Priest, as described in the Epistle to the Hebrews.
In an interview at the time with L’Osservatore Romano, Vanhoye said that the Letter to the Hebrews was “the only book of the Bible which specifically develops the priesthood of Christ.”
The letter’s author uses the term archierèus, which means “priest-head.”
“Applied to Christ, the term indicates perfect fulfillment of the concept of priest in Christ. Christ is the perfect mediator between God and us. He brings us into his communion with the Father,” Vanhoye said.
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and vice dean of the College of Cardinals, is due to celebrate Vanhoye’s funeral Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at 11 a.m. local time on July 31.
The Frenchman’s death leaves the College of Cardinals with 220 members, 123 of whom are eligible to participate in a conclave.
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The world’s oldest cardinal is now the 97-year-old Slovakian Cardinal Jozef Tomko, president emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses.
In his telegram following Vanhoye’s death, Pope Francis said: “I raise my prayer to the Lord that, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, he may receive this faithful servant of his into the heavenly Jerusalem, and I cordially impart my apostolic blessing to those who mourn his passing, with a special thought for those who lovingly assisted and accompanied him in his last days.”