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Georges Cottier

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Georges Marie Martin Cottier, O.P.
Pro-Theologian Emeritus of Prefecture of the Papal Household
Cottier, 2013
Other post(s)
  • Secretary General of International Theological Commission (1989–2003)
  • Theologian of the Papal Household (1990–2005)
Ordination2 July 1951
Consecration20 October 2003
Created cardinal21 October 2003
  • Cardinal Deacon (2003–14)
  • Cardinal Priest (2014–16)
Personal details
Born(1922-04-25)25 April 1922
Céligny, Switzerland
Died31 March 2016(2016-03-31) (aged 93)
Vatican City
ResidenceVatican City
Coat of armsGeorges Marie Martin Cottier, O.P.'s coat of arms

Georges Marie Martin Cottier O.P., (25 April 1922 – 31 March 2016) was a Swiss prelate and theologian of the Catholic Church who served from 1990 to 2005 as theologian to Pope John Paul II as Theologian of the Pontifical Household after a career as a theologian and teacher. He was made a cardinal in 2003.


Cottier was born in Carouge, Switzerland, on 25 April 1922 and took his vows as a member of the Dominican Order on 4 July 1946. Cottier studied theology and philosophy at the Pontificium Athenaeum Internationale Angelicum, the future Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, until 1952 obtaining a baccalaureate in philosophy and a licentiate in theology.[1] While there he was ordained a priest on 2 July 1951.

He was a professor at the Universities of Geneva and Fribourg. He became a member of the International Theological Commission in 1986 and its secretary in 1989, a post he held until 2003. He was appointed Theologian of the Pontifical Household in 1990.

As papal theologian, he participated in the development of works authored by the pope, either drafting, researching, or editing. In 2004, Cottier told an interviewer: "Going back to the early years, the first “big” text I worked on was the social encyclical Centesimus annus. And then the Ut unum sint on ecumenicalism, the moral encyclical Veritatis splendor, and the Fides et ratio... also the Catechism of the Catholic Church."[2]

He was appointed titular archbishop of Tullia in 2003 and received his episcopal consecration on 20 October 2003 to meet the requirement that only bishops be cardinals. The next day, 21 October, Pope John Paul II made him Cardinal-Deacon of Santi Domenico e Sisto.[3]

His service as papal theologian ended on 1 December 2005.[4][5]

After ten years, he exercised his option to become a member of the order of cardinal priests, to which Pope Francis gave his consent on 12 June 2014.[6]

Cottier died on 31 March 2016. His funeral was celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica by Pope Francis on 1 April 2016.[7]


In the run-up to President Barack Obama's 10 July 2009 meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, Cottier praised Obama's “humble realism” in recognizing that the president's "words move in the direction of reducing the evil [of abortion]," and in this manner might align to the thinking of St. Thomas Aquinas and early Christian tradition in terms of framing laws in a pluralistic society.[8]

Cottier reacted to John Paul II's encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia by saying that the Catholic Church rejects the concept of open communion.[9] Cottier defended the Church's view that the embryo is fully a human being.[10]

He came out in defense of Pope Pius XII against those who continue to criticize his legacy.[11]

Cottier was critical of anonymous Christianity, saying that a theological system that absorbs all realities into Christ ends by turning Christ into a kind of metaphysical postulate of the affirmation of human values, which makes the Church incapable of engaging in serious dialogue, even on the level of human rights. Then, saying that everybody is already of Christ, whether they know it or not, can make the mission futile.[12]

Cottier said that the use of condoms may be morally licit in the context of fighting AIDS.[13]


  1. ^ Miano, Vincenzo (1983). L'Indifférence religieuse. Editions Beauchesne. ISBN 9782701010618. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
  2. ^ Cottier, George (March 2004). "«If everything is grace, then grace is no more»". 30Days (Interview). Interviewed by Gianni Valente.
  3. ^ "Consistory of October 21, 2003: Assignment of the Titles or the Deaconries to the new Cardinals". Office of Papal Liturgical Celebrations.
  4. ^ "Biografía del Georges Marie Martin Cottier OP". dominicos.org (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 14 April 2013. Retrieved 9 August 2022.
  5. ^ Mickens, Robert (10 December 2005). "Vatican names new papal theologian". The Tablet. Archived from the original on 22 June 2011. Retrieved 10 August 2022.
  6. ^ "Assegnazione del titolo presbiterale ad alcuni cardinali diaconi creati nel consistoro del 21 ottobre 2003" (in Italian). 12 June 2014. Archived from the original on 25 June 2014. Retrieved 14 June 2014.
  7. ^ "Il teologo emerito della Casa Pontificia. È morto il cardinale Georges Cottier". Avvenire (in Italian). 1 April 2016.
  8. ^ "Former papal theologian praises Obama's 'realism,' even on abortion". ncronline.org. 3 July 2009.
  9. ^ "Google Translate". translate.google.com.
  10. ^ "Google Translate". translate.google.com.
  11. ^ "Google Translate". translate.google.com.
  12. ^ If everything is grace, then grace is no more» Archived 27 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "Google Translate". translate.google.com.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Theologian of the Pontifical Household
Succeeded by