Gregory Baum, one of the pioneers in Jewish-Catholic relations died at the age of 94 on October 18, 2017.

gregory baum

Gregory Baum, author of the first draft of Nostra Aetate, was a young theologian, was close to Cardinal Augustin Bea, charged by Pope John XXIII to promote the reformulation of the Catholic position on Jews and Judaism at the Second Vatican Council.

Baum was born to a Jewish mother and Protestant father in Berlin in 1923. In 1940, at the age of 17, he went to Canada as a war refugee after a brief stay in England. He became a Catholic during the war years and joined the Augustinian order in 1947. He was ordained a priest in 1954. He studied theology at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland and published That They May Be One, an influential book about Catholic ecumenism in 1958.

His involvement in the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) began even before the world’s bishops met in Rome, as Vatican officials were planning the Council. “I remember the first session I attended was in November 1960,” Baum told The Catholic Register in 2012. “I was at the first session of the secretariat in Rome. We had the first meeting with Cardinal Bea and Monsignor (later Cardinal Johannes) Willebrands, and this was all about ecumenism. At the end of the meeting Cardinal Bea said, ‘I just saw the pope and he said to us, he said that he wants the secretariat to prepare a statement to rethink the Church’s relationship to the Jews.”

Baum attended all three sessions of the Council as a peritus or theological expert, consulting on Nostra Aetate (On the Church’s Relation to Non-Christian Religions), Unitatis Redintegratio (On Ecumenism) and Dignitatis Humanae (On Religious Liberty).

After the Council, Baum became a professor of theology and ethics at the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto. He eventually left the priesthood in 1974 and married. He studied sociology at the New School for Social Theory in New York and made a move in the 1980s to the Religious Studies department at McGill University in Montreal.

See an interview with Baum here