His Eminence Franjo Šeper
(October 2, 1905—December 30, 1981)
Franjo Šeper (October 2, 1905—December 30, 1981) was a Croatian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1968 to 1981, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1965.
Born in Osijek (then part of Austria-Hungary, but now Croatia), he and his family moved to Zagreb in 1910; his father was a tailor and his mother a seamstress. Studying in Zagreb and Rome (including the Pontifical Gregorian University), Šeper was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Giuseppe Palica on October 26, 1930. He did pastoral work in the Archdiocese of Zagreb and, in 1934, was appointed private secretary to the Archbishop. In 1941 Father Šeper became the rector of the archdiocesan seminary, a post which he held for the next decade. On July 22, 1954 he was named coadjutor archbishop of Zagreb and titular archbishop of Philippopolis; he received his episcopal consecration on the following September 21 from Archbishop Josip Ujčić of Belgrade.
He succeeded Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac as Archbishop of Zagreb on March 5, 1960, and was created Cardinal Priest of Ss. Pietro e Paolo a Via Ostiense by Pope Paul VI in the consistory of February 22, 1965. He resigned as Archbishop of Zagreb on 20 August 1969. He had advocated religious liberty and the introduction of the vernacular into the liturgy during the Second Vatican Council.
During his visit to the United States in 1966, he received an honorary doctorate from Villanova University.
He was named Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on 8 January 1968. Šeper was the author of the document Mysterium Ecclesiae, which was written in order to re-orientate the ecclesiology of the post-Vatican II period. Šeper was also the President of the International Theological Commission from its inception in April 1969.
In 1974, the Congregation published a "declaration on procured abortion", re-asserting the Church's opposition to the controversial procedure since the publication of Humanae Vitae. It later published the document Persona Humana on the topic of sexual ethics.
In 1976, he was responsible for writing the statement Inter Insigniores, which firmly rejected the ordination of women in the Catholic Church. In 1980, he also wrote the CDF's declaration on Euthanasia, explaining the Church's view on ending life.
He was a cardinal elector in the August and October conclaves of 1978.
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Cardinal Šeper retired as Prefect on 25 November 1981 and died a month later, on the morning of 30 December, at 76 from a myocardial infarction in Gemelli Hospital. Pope John Paul II presided over his funeral Mass, and the cardinal's body was later transferred to Zagreb, where it is buried beside the tomb of Cardinal Stepinac.
On the 25th anniversary of his death (30 December 2006), Šeper's successor as Prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Levada, celebrated a Requiem Mass for him at the Zagreb cathedral.