WASHINGTON, DC — Current and past colleagues of Jesuit Father Drew Christiansen have paid tribute to the Middle East and foreign policy scholar and former magazine editor who died on April 6.
Jesuit Father James Martin, who in 2005 worked for America, the national Jesuit magazine, recalled when Christiansen took over as editor.
“Drew, a respected moral theologian who never wanted to be the editor, turned out to be the editor we needed at the time,” Martin recalled in an April 6 essay for the America.
The United States Jesuit Conference named Christiansen to succeed Jesuit Father Thomas Reese, who announced on May 6, 2005, that he would step down at the end of that month.
Reese had faced repeated complaints from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who objected to the magazine’s treatment of some sensitive Church issues, such as same-sex marriage and the reception of Communion by Catholic politicians who support the retention. of the legality of abortion.
At the time, Jesuit officials told the Catholic News Service’s Rome bureau that the priest’s resignation “was not imposed,” but that he submitted it after discussing the situation with his Jesuit superiors, following the cardinal’s election as Pope Benedict XVI in April 2005.
“Drew was able to steady the boat and deepen our relationships with bishops, many of whom he knew personally, especially those in the United States,” Martin added.
But Christiansen was also not “afraid to speak truth to power”, he said. “Often in editorial meetings, when someone was concerned that a particular editorial or article might offend some members of the bishopric, Drew would say, ‘The bishops need to be challenged on this.’”
Martin said, “For someone who never wanted to be an editor, he turned out to be good at it: smart, thoughtful, consultative, wise and kind.”
In a joint message, Jesuit Father Ron Anton, leader of the Jesuit community in Georgetown, and Jesuit Father Mark Bosco, the order’s vice president for mission and ministry, said: “Father Drew was a priest devoted Jesuit, scholar, lawyer and community member. who has dedicated his life to applying the rich social tradition and ethics of the Catholic Church to issues of human rights, nuclear disarmament, interreligious dialogue and peaceful relations around the world.
“He represented the best of what Georgetown envisions for global engagement through the lens of our Catholic faith and Jesuit tradition,” they added. “He had a particular interest and passion for working for peace in the Holy Land and Christian-Muslim dialogue, advocating for disarmament and the banning of nuclear weapons, and workers’ rights everywhere.”
“In addition to his work around the world, Father Drew was an incredible pastoral presence here in Georgetown and in the lives of faculty, students and staff. He was beloved by his students, always eager to hear about a student’s interests and background, and could often be found hosting students at Wolfington Hall (Jesuit residence) for thoughtful conversations at the ‘lunch time.
Rateb Y. Rabie, at an April 7 commemoration of “Abouna Drew” – “abouna” is Arabic for “father” – said, “Abouna Drew hasn’t really left, because he lives in the good works he has done here on earth. An essay or a speech can never do justice to all he has done, all the friendships he has made and all the lives he has left changed in never for the better. I hope to pay tribute to this gracious man whom I had the honor to call a friend.
Rabie and Christiansen were co-founders of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, known by its acronym HCEF.
“Abouna Drew was the real force behind HCEF. He brought extensive experience in religious matters and Middle Eastern affairs. He opened the doors for the Catholic Church to support the HCEF and Palestinian Christians,” Rabie said.
“I can’t thank him enough. His experience really guided us in those early days. His charisma made us grow. He was so kind that we have to thank him for our volunteer base and support,” he said. continued: “He was steadfast for justice and peace in the Middle East, especially for the Palestinian people. His unwavering commitment led many to recognize the plight of the Palestinians.”
Rabie added, “He encouraged us all to believe that one day justice would prevail”, calling Christiansen “an honored friend, a true American and a citizen of the world”.
John Carr, co-director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, had been Christiansen’s patron at the American Bishops’ Conference for more than six years that the priest worked there.
“I had the honor of working closely with Fr. Drew Christiansen SJ when he led the U.S. Bishops Office for International Justice and Peace in the 1990s,” Carr recalled in a statement to CNS. “His great knowledge, connections and skills have helped the conference (of bishops) to lead in matters of war and peace, to care for God’s creation and to seek justice and peace in the Holy Land.”
Carr added, “He was a caring priest, a committed Jesuit and a good friend. At his death, we are comforted by the promise of the beatitudes: “Blessed are the artisans of peace”, for such was his vocation.
Victor Gaetan, author of “God’s Diplomats: Pope Francis, Vatican Diplomacy, and America’s Armageddon,” tweeted of Christiansen: “What a wonderful, generous priest and friend. A goldmine of knowledge; a holy man. #EternalRest grant him O Lord, and perpetual light shine upon him.
Jordan Denari Duffner, a Catholic author and scholar of Christian-Muslim relations and Christiansen’s doctoral student at Georgetown, tweeted on April 6: “Father. Drew was an advocate of Islamic-Christian dialogue and was very vocal about Palestinian rights. He was a friend and mentor to me, always supporting my writing and my calling. Allah yarhamu”, Arabic for “God, have mercy”.
Stephen Colecchi, who in 2004 was appointed director of the U.S. Bishops Office for International Justice and Peace – a post Christiansen held from 1991 to 1998, tweeted: “Father Drew was a friend and colleague. I will miss him and his gentle but strong leadership.