Cardinal Adrianus Johannes Simonis, retired archbishop of Utrecht, Netherlands, has died at the age of 88.
In a statement released by the archdiocese, Cardinal Willem J. Eijk of Utrecht said he was “saddened” by the news of his predecessor’s death and that the Catholic Church “lost someone with a pastoral heart.”
“Cardinal Simonis became archbishop at a difficult time in which polarization in the Netherlands was very strong,” Cardinal Eijk said. “That did not prevent him from fulfilling his motto, ‘That they may know you’, in many ways in the past decades.”
In a telegram to Cardinal Eijk, Pope Francis offered his condolences to the faithful of the archdiocese.
“Commending his soul to the loving mercy of Jesus the Good Shepherd, I join you in giving thanks to almighty God for the late cardinal’s faithful witness to the Gospel, his years of devoted episcopal ministry to the churches of Rotterdam and Utrecht and his valued efforts in the service of ecclesial communion,” the Pope said.
Born in Lisse, he studied at the Warmond major seminary and was ordained to the priesthood in 1957. In 1970, St. Paul VI named him bishop of Rotterdam, where he served for 13 years before he was named coadjutor archbishop of Utrecht.
He was created a cardinal by St John Paul II in 1985 and served as archbishop of Utrecht until his retirement in April 2007.
According to the Vatican, Cardinal Simonis was known “for his commitment in defending Catholic doctrine relating to marriage, the family and the inviolable value of human life.”
His death leaves the College of Cardinals with 220 members, 122 of whom are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new Pope.