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Ferdinand de Grijs dies

Ferdinand de Grijs, founder and first director of the Thomas Institute died on August 10 at the age 80 in his home in Baars, The Netherlands. He was priest of the Archdiocese of Utrecht and emeritus professor of Systematic Theology of the Catholic Theological University at Utrecht
Professor Ferdinand de Grijs, who founded the Thomas Institute in 1990, died on Wednesday August 10, 2011, in his home in Baars. He had been ill for some time.

Ferdinand de Grijs was born in the city of Leeuwarden on January 27, 1931 and ordained priest on July 22, 1956. He received his doctorate from Nijmegen University in 1967 and became professor of systematic theology at the Catholic Theological University at Utrecht, now the School of Catholic Theology of Tilburg University, from which he retired in 1996. He served as president of the Theological University from 1989 till 1993 and was also professor by special appointment at the Faculty of Theology of Utrecht University.

The thought of Thomas Aquinas had his special interest already as a student. He wrote his two volume dissertation, entitled Goddelijk Mensontwerp, about Aquinas’ theological anthropology. In the early 1980s, when the study of Thomas Aquinas had practically vanished from the academic scene in the Netherlands - and elsewhere - De Grijs started the Thomas Aquinas working group in which philosophers, historians, jurists, Latinists, theologians and representatives of other academic disciplines participated. As of 1990, the working group changed into the Thomas Institute with De Grijs as its first director until Herwi Rikhof succeeded him in 1996.

In studying Thomas Aquinas, Ferdinand de Grijs was attentive to the textual and historical context and to the philosophical background, but his ultimate focus was on the Triune God Himself. He encouraged students not to merely reproduce Aquinas’ thought or content themselves with just a historical explanation of it, but to engage in Aquinas’ truly theological project: to ’syn-theologize’, as he quoted Rahner, with Thomas Aquinas in speaking directly about God. This attitude also became apparent in his publications, as e.g. in his latest book Onze Heer. Onderzoekingen in het katholieke geloof over Jezus Christus (Our Lord. Studies into the Catholic Faith about Jesus Christ), which came out only this year. A sequel to this book will appear shortly. Unfortunately, Ferdinand de Grijs wrote little in English.

The ecumenical dialogue was always very dear to De Grijs. In 1989, he was one of the co-founders of The Christian Articles of Faith (XART), the ecumenical society of dogmatic theologians teaching and studying at Catholic and Protestant faculties in the Netherlands. Through De Grijs's role in XART also a new generation of Dutch Protestant theologians became directly familiar with Aquinas' texts, freeing themselves from traditional biases against Thomism.

The funeral mass will be on Saturday August 13 in the Cathedral of Utrecht, Archbishop Eijk will be presiding.

We shall remember Ferdinand de Grijs with great gratitude. Please, remember him in your prayers.