Paulist Father Thomas Stransky

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Paulist Father Thomas Stransky, credited internationally as a pioneer in the Catholic Church’s ecumenical and interfaith relations stemming from the Second Vatican Council, died Sept. 3, his 89th birthday, at the residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Totowa, N.J.

Father Stransky oversaw the drafting of three important council documents: “Unitatis Redintegratio,” the decree on ecumenism; “Nostra Aetate” (“In Our Time”), the declaration on Catholic Church relations with other religions; and “Dignitatis Humanae,” the decree on religious freedom.

“He was part of the original staff of the (Vatican) Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. In many ways, he helped engineer many of the decisions that were made during the council,” said John Borelli, special assistant to the president for interreligious initiatives at Georgetown University.

Father Stransky joined the secretariat in 1960 at the invitation of the future Cardinal Johannes Willebrands, secretary of the new Vatican office.

After the council, the priest participated in theological dialogues with Anglicans, Methodists and evangelical communities. He ended his time with the secretariat in 1970 but remained a consultor for more than 30 years.

He participated in the World Council of Churches’ assemblies around the world from 1968 to 1998 and was involved in the Joint Working Group between that organization and the Catholic Church.

He was elected as the first president of the Paulist Fathers based in Manhattan. Previous community leaders held the title of superior general.

During his eight-year tenure, the community grew in membership, allowing it to take on 11 additional parishes and the chaplaincies at several university Newman Centers.

In 1988, he was invited to serve as rector of the Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Israel, where he remained on the staff for 20 years.

A native of Milwaukee, he was ordained a Paulist priest in 1957 and a year later was sent to Europe for doctoral studies before joining the Vatican secretariat.

A Funeral Mass was celebrated Sept. 10 at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Manhattan. His cremains will be interred at a later date.—CNS

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