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from issue no. 10 - 2003


Father Ignace de la Potterie S.J.

by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini

I willingly put into writing some memories of a very dear brother and friend, Father Ignazio de la Potterie S.J., whom the Lord called to himself some time ago.
We knew each other at the Pontifical Biblical Institute at the beginning of the ‘sixties. We were colleagues: he studied and taught the Gospel of John particularly, I dedicated myself to textual criticism. It was the time of Vatican Council II, the time when the dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum was being elaborated.
We immediately found ourselves in great accord because of the expectation of Catholic exegetes for this document. I remember how much Father de la Pottier expended himself to help the Council Bishops understand the problems which were behind the great themes of the Word of God and Sacred Scripture. He was also of valid help in the elaboration of some significant formulations, which then became part of the conciliar texts. As soon as the document Dei Verbum was approved he defended with force its novel character, also in the face of the imperfect translations of some phrases which obscured the message of the document.
From that time he researched deeply the subject of the truth in Saint John, which then became his doctoral thesis and his most significant book. But he dealt in depth with other Johannine topics, such as the Prologue, the narrative of the Passion and its structure, and many other subjects of exegesis and biblical theology. In all of this he showed himself to be a careful researcher, rigorous and demanding and at the same time very attentive to the needs of the Christian community and the context of faith in which he operated.
In his research his attention to the Fathers of the Church and to patristic exegesis matured ever more, also with a certain polemical tension, more pronounced in the later years, with respect to a historical-critical exegesis too closed in itself.
He was an exemplary religious, a man of prayer, humble, obliging and at the same time an ardent researcher and defender of the truth. Now he contemplates that eternal Truth which he served with all his energy, his intelligence and his passion.

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