Religion Wiki
Styles of
Eugène Cardinal Tisserant
CardinalCoA PioM.svg
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
See Porto e Santa Rufina (suburbicarian), Ostia (suburbicarian)

Eugène Tisserant (full name: Eugène-Gabriel-Gervais-Laurent Tisserant) (24 March 1884—21 February 1972) was a French Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. Elevated to the cardinalate in 1936, Tisserant was a prominent and long-time member of the Roman Curia.

His surname is also given in the form Tisserand, as in the list of the members of the French Academy.


Early life and ordination

Eugène Tisserant was born in Nancy to Hippolyte and Octavée (née Connard) Tisserant. From 1900 to 1904, he studied theology, Sacred Scripture, Hebrew, Syriac, Old Testament, and Oriental Patrology at the seminary in Nancy. He then studied in Jerusalem under Marie-Joseph Lagrange, OP, but returned to France in 1905 for military service. On 4 August 1907, Tisserant was ordained a priest by Bishop Charles-François Turinaz.

Professor and Monsignor

He served as a professor at the Pontifical Roman Athenaeum S. Apollinare and curator at the Vatican Library from 1908 to 1914, at which time he became an intelligence officer in the French Army during World War I. Named assistant librarian of the Vatican in 1919 and Monsignor in 1921, Tisserant became Pro-Prefect of the Vatican Library on 15 November 1930 and then protonotary apostolic on 13 January 1936. On 25 June 1937, he was appointed Titular Archbishop of Iconium by Pope Pius XI. Tisserant received his episcopal consecration on the following 25 July from Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, with Archbishop Giuseppe Migone and Bishop Charles-Joseph-Eugène Ruch serving as co-consecrators, in St. Peter's Basilica.

One year earlier, Tisserant was created Cardinal-Deacon of Ss. Vito, Modesto e Crescenzia by Pius XI in the consistory of 15 June 1936. He was appointed as Secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches four days later, holding the post until 1959. He was raised to thhe rank of Cardinal-Priest soon afterwards, retaining the same title, which was changed to Santa Maria sopra Minerva in 1939. The title of Cardinal Bishop was twice granted to Tisserant by Pope Pius XII, that of Porto e Santa Rufina in 1946 and that of Ostia in 1951, when Tisserant became Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals.

Pius XII's papacy

Tisserant held a number of offices in the Roman Curia, among them: President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission (1938-1946), Prefect of the Congregation of Ceremonies (1951-1967, when it was divided into the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and that of Divine Worship), and Librarian and Archivist of the Holy Roman Church (1957-1971). After the outbreak of World War II, Pius XII refused to release Tisserant as the head of the Vatican Library, so that Tisserant could return to France to serve in the army.[1]

In the postwar years, according to an interpretation of certain documents, Tisserant worked with the Argentine Cardinal Antonio Caggiano to rescue beleaguered Nazis and collaborators from post-war Europe. [2]

On 13 January 1951, Tisserant was appointed Dean of the College of Cardinals, after three years service as Vice-Dean.

During the pontificate of Pius XII, Tisserant headed a tribunal to investigate alleged abuses of Knights Hospitaller appointments, which concluded that there was no wrongdoing.[3] The French prelate also urged Pius to promulgate an encyclical in 1939 "on the duty of Catholics to resist the unjust orders of an authoritarian state", and later said, "I am afraid history will reproach the Holy See for having followed a policy which was convenient to itself, and for not having done much else. This is extremely sad."[4].

Second Vatican Council

He was elected a member of the Académie française in 1961. From 1962 to 1965, he attended the Second Vatican Council and sat on its Board of Presidency. Cardinal Tisserant, in his capacity as a cardinal, was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the conclaves of 1939, 1958 and 1963. During the 1958 conclave, he was seen as papabile by most Vatican-watchers, and it is generally believed that he received at least five votes in the early balloting.

Cardinal Tisserant is recorded as having participated in the negotiations of the Metz Accord, a secretive 1960s agreement between Soviet and Vatican officials that authorized Eastern Orthodox participation in the Second Vatican Council in exchange for a non-condemnation of atheistic communism during the conciliar assemblies.

As Dean of the Sacred College, he celebrated the funeral Masses of Popes Pius XII and John XXIII, presided over the conclaves of 1958 and 1963, and was the first person after Pope Paul VI to sign each of the acts of the Second Vatican Council.

In 1969 Tisserant demanded a retraction from Leo Cardinal Suenens for the "defamatory and slanderous" statements the Archbishop of Brussels-Mechelen made against the bureaucracy of the Roman Curia[5].

Tisserant died from a heart attack in Albano Laziale[6], at age 87. He is buried in the Cathedral of Porto e Santa Rufina in Rome.

Tisserant was fluent in thirteen languages: Amharic, Arabic, Assyrian, English, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Persian, Russian, Syriac.[7]

Before his priestly ordination, he was invited to teach Assyrian at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.

Episcopal succession

Episcopal Lineage
Consecrated by: Pope Pius XII
Date of consecration: July 25, 1937
Consecrator of
Bishop Date of consecration
Alberto Gori December 27, 1949
Sebastian Vayalil November 9, 1950
Diego Venini February 4, 1951
Hailé Mariam Cahsai May 1, 1951
Ghebre Jesus Jacob May 1, 1951
Paolo Bertoli May 11, 1952
Pietro Sfair May 24, 1953
Raffaele Forni September 13, 1953
Joseph Parecattil November 30, 1953
Pope Paul VI December 12, 1954


  1. Murphy, p. 195.
  2. Caroll and Goñi
  3. Murphy, p. 261-262
  4. TIME Magazine. Open City, Silent City April 3, 1964
  5. Time Magazine. The Cardinal as Critic 1 August 1969
  6. Time Magazine. Recent Deaths 6 March 1972
  7. Murphy, p. 194


  • Murphy, Paul I. and Arlington, R. Rene. .1983. La Popessa. New York: Warner Books Inc. ISBN 0-446-51258-3.
  • Carroll, Rory and Goñi, Uki. 2008. "The Hunt for Doctor Death". The Guardian (London) January 8.

See also

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Francesco Cardinal Marchetti-Selvaggiani
Dean of the College of Cardinals
Succeeded by
Amleto Giovanni Cardinal Cicognani
Preceded by
Giovanni Cardinal Mercati
Archivist of the Holy Roman Church
14 September 1957 - 27 March 1971
Succeeded by
Antonio Cardinal Samore
Preceded by
Nicola Cardinal Canali
Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
Succeeded by
Maximilien Cardinal de Furstenberg

la:Eugenius Tisserant no:Eugène Tisserant ru:Тиссеран, Эжен