Father John F. Hotchkin, Director of Bishops' Ecumenical Office, Is Dead at 66
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John Francis Hotchkin was born near Chicago in Mokena, Illinois, on February 3, 1935, to John and Sarah Hotchkin. He was the oldest of six children: John, Jean, Sarah, Thomas, Kathleen, and Mary. He studied at area schools and at Quigley Preparatory Seminary in Chicago and St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois. He was ordained to the priesthood in Rome on July 12, 1959 and completed his seminary studies at the North American College there. He returned to the Archdiocese of Chicago and was an associate pastor of Christ the King and St. Therese of the Infant Jesus parishes, but returned to Rome for postgraduate studies in 1964. He earned a doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1966 with a specialization in ecumenical theology.
Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, spoke of Fr. Hotchkin's important role in the ecumenical movement: "His leadership . . . has shaped and enriched the implementation of the ecumenical mandate of the Second Vatican Council not only in the United States but also throughout the world."
Father Hotchkin began serving as Assistant Director of the Secretariat for the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs on January 1, 1967. In April 1971, he succeeded Bernard Cardinal Law as Executive Director. The Secretariat which Father Hotchkin directed for 30 years has been engaged extensively since the Second Vatican Council with Christian churches, the Jewish community, and other major religious groups on the national level, co-sponsoring with them a wide range of bilateral and multilateral dialogues and other activities. At one time or another, Fr. Hotchkin participated in each of the bilateral ecumenical dialogues. Under his direction, ecumenical dialogues were initiated with the ancient Oriental Orthodox churches, the Polish National Catholic Church, and the Southern Baptist Convention and interreligious relations expanded significantly. At the time of his death, the Secretariat staffed 14 bilateral dialogues with other Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and the Bishops' Committee also included a Subcommittee on Interreligious Dialogue.
Pope Paul VI appointed Fr. Hotchkin a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in 1973, and Pope John Paul II reaffirmed that appointment. He served as consultor to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue from 1985 to 1990.
Msgr. John Radano expressed the condolences of the Holy See's Pontifical Council for Promoting of Christian Unity, and admiration and gratitude for Fr. Hotchkin's work with the Council over the years. "Father Hotchkin exercised crucial leadership for the Church in the U. S. and international Catholic-Lutheran dialogues that produced the documents which served as the key resources showing consensus on justification," Father Radano said. "These documents laid the groundwork for the historic Joint Declaration on Justification."
Father Hotchkin has also served on the U. S. Faith and Order Commission and other joint commissions co-sponsored with the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA. Beginning in 1967 he served as one of the Catholic observer-consultants to the Consultation on Church Union and had attended every plenary assembly from that time. He was a voting member of the international Lutheran-Catholic Commission from 1973-1984. He co-chaired the Anglican-Roman Catholic Consultation on Women's Ordination held in Versailles in 1978. He was an officially delegated observer for the Catholic Church to the 5th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (Nairobi, 1975), the 6th Assembly (Vancouver, 1983), and the World Convocation on Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (Seoul, 1990). He was an officially appointed Catholic observer to the 5th Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation in Evian in 1970, and took part in meetings of Russian and American church representatives and of the World Conference on Religion and Peace.
In 1990 he was the recipient of the James Fitzgerald Award for Ecumenism of the National Association of Ecumenical Officers. In 1991 Father Hotchkin was named a "Patron of Christian Unity," the highest ecumenical award of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The honor was bestowed in recognition of his "faithful witness to ecumenism." On that occasion, Dr. Paul Crow, president of the Disciples Council on Christian Unity, said: "Fr. Hotchkin's life has taught Disciples of Christ and other traditions that priesthood is service in the name of Christ, especially in calling the Church to its witness to the reconciling love of God. Fr. Hotchkin has been a calm, wise and spiritual counselor for many people and groups in the ecumenical movement ."
In 1997, the Archdiocese of Chicago bestowed on him the Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Laureate in Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and the Catholic University of America awarded him a Doctorate of Laws honoris causa. In 2000 he was the recipient of the Paul Wattson Christian Unity Award presented by the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement.
Fr. Hotchkin was a contributor to The New Catholic Encyclopedia, The New Dictionary of Sacramental Worship, the Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling, Church Union at Midpoint (Association Press), and Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue IV (Augsburg Publishing House). His articles have appeared in these journals: America, Church, Ecumenical Trends, Ecumenism, Journal of Ecumenical Studies, The Jurist, Lutheran World, Midstream, One in Christ, Origins, l'Osservatore Romano, The Proceedings of the Canon Law Society of America, and The Proceedings of the Catholic Theological Society of America.
The following is an incomplete list of publications by Fr. John F. Hotchkin. It offers a sampling of his knowledge of church relations and insights into the ecumenical movement.
"Ministry – An Ecumenical Concern," The American Ecclesiastical Review 161 (1969) 386-395.
"Roman Catholic Principles and Policies for Eucharistic Sharing," Jurist 30 (1970) 271-284.
"Mixed Marriage: Review and Preview," Homiletic and Pastoral Review 71 (1971) 335-347.
"Ecumenism in Context: Emerging Pattern of Agreement," Origins 1 n. 31 (January 20, 1972) 517-518.
"Anglican/Roman Catholic Dialogue," The New Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 16 (Supplement: 1967-1974) Washington, DC: Catholic University of America, 1974. 9-10.
"Faith and Order," The New Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 16 (Supplement: 1967-1974) Washington, DC: Catholic University of America, 1974. 179.
"Secretariat for Non-Believers," The New Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 16 (Supplement: 1967-1974) Washington, DC: Catholic University of America, 1974. 404-405.
"Secretariat for Non-Christians," The New Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 16 (Supplement: 1967-1974) Washington, DC: Catholic University of America, 1974. 405-406.
"Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity," The New Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 16 (Supplement: 1967-1974) Washington, DC: Catholic University of America, 1974. 406-407.
"Ecumenism in the 1970s: Is There a New Direction?" Catholic Theological Society of America Proceedings 31 (1976) 203-215.
"Christian Dialogue and the Eucharist," Catholic Mind 75 (March 1977) 11-32, and Mid-Stream 16 (July 1977) 271-293.
"An Ecumenical View from a Catholic Perspective – 1977," The New Catholic World 220 (July-August 1977) 160-163.
"Bilateral Consultations," The New Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 17 (Supplement: Change in the Church) Washington, DC: Catholic University of America, 1979. 42-43.
"Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs," The New Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 17 (Supplement: Change in the Church) Washington, DC: Catholic University of America, 1979. 43-44.
"United Methodist/Roman Catholic Dialogue," The New Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 17 (Supplement: Change in the Church) Washington, DC: Catholic University of America, 1979. 678-679.
With John B. Sheerin, CSP, eds. Addresses and Homilies on Ecumenism, 1978-1980, by Pope John Paul II. Washington, DC: U.S. Catholic Conference, 1980.
"Koinonia and Exclusivity," Lutheran Theological Seminary Bulletin 63 (Winter 1983) 23-26.
"Reflections on Dialogue and Justification," Ecumenical Trends 13 (April 1984) 62-64.
"Familiaris Consortio: New Light on Mixed Marriages," One in Christ 22 (1986) 73-79.
"Bilaterals: Phasing into Unity?" Journal of Ecumenical Studies 23 (1986) 404-411.
"Lutherans and Catholics at a Turning Point," Ecumenism n. 81 (March 1986) 23-25.
"Amerikaanse gelovigen," Kosmos+Oekumene 1988, 80-85.
"Ecumenical Dialogues," The New Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 18 (Supplement 1978-1988) Washington, DC: Catholic University of America, 1989. 133-136.
"The Ecumenical Vision of John Paul II," Priest 46 (September 1990) 10-13.
"The Challenge of Our Common Discipleship," Ecumenical Trends 20 (April 1991) 57-60.
"Standards for Measuring Ecumenism's Course," Origins 20 n. 32 (January 17, 1991) 509-514.
"The Wonderful, Sometimes Curious Progress of Ecumenism," Origins 24 n. 3 (June 2, 1994) 43-48.
"The Ecumenical Movement's Third Stage," Origins 25 n. 21 (November 9, 1995) 353-361.
"Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism," Ecumenism 117 (March 1995).
"Ecumenical Directory," The New Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 19 (Supplement 1989-1995) Washington, DC: Catholic University of America, 1996, 113-115.
"Cardinal Bernardin: A True Person of Hope," Origins 26 n. 25 (December 5, 1996) 409-411.
"Canon Law and Ecumenism: Giving Shape to the Future," Origins 30, n. 19 (October 19, 2000) 289-298.
"Ecumenical Directory," The New Catholic Encyclopedia Jubilee Volume: The Wojtyla Years. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America, 2001. 203-204.