Dr. Eric Maria Vermehren de Saventhem, 23.12.1919 - 28.04.2005
30.05.05, by Dr. Rudolf Kaschewsky, Vice-President, UNA VOCE Deutschland
On 28 April 2005, the Founder President and serving Honarary President of the Foederatio Internationalis UNA VOCE was called home by God Almighty. He struggled for more than forty years, like scarcely anyone else, for the preservation and reinstatement of the traditional liturgy.
After his marriage in 1941, he worked in Istanbul in 1942. When Eric de Saventhem and his wife came to learn of the misdeeds of the German regime, they decided in anticipation of the persecution of the National Socialist regime, to flee to England with British help, through Izmir, Cairo and Gibraltar. Eric de Saventhem worked first as a teacher and then as a company director in Britain and from 1966 in Switzerland (resident in Clarens).
It became clearer following the Second Vatican Council, that the venerable liturgy of the Catholic Church, which together with the Gregorian chant -in spite of the Second Vatican Council - was under threat of vanishing, Dr. de Saventhem and the Norwegian psychologist Dr. Borghild Krane founded the association UNA VOCE and laid the foundation stones for the International Federation, of which he would be the first president; soon there would be national associations, in France, in the USA and in a growing number of countries. They agreed upon the objective to keep the traditional liturgy, above all the Missale Romanum of 1962, alive - and indeed aequo iure et honore "with the same right and honour" - as Dr. de Saventhem was never tired of insisting. One of his commissioned opinion polls in Germany showed 5 million Germans supported the reinstatement of the traditional Mass and that 1 million would participate if it were celebrated again.
One of the questions that the President of the Federation would frequently put orally and in writing - even to high-ranking Vatican representatives - was whether the "old" Mass was officially abrogated, or even forbidden. In 1976, he got the evasive answer from Cardinal Benelli that the Pope wished that the new form would be celebrated.
One success of Dr. de Saventhem's indefatigable labours was the so-called Indult Quattuor Abhinc Annos of Pope John Paul II on 3 October 1984, with which - under truly restrictive conditions - the celebration of Mass according to the 1962 Missale Romanum was possible. Then the Motu proprio Ecclesia Dei Adflicta followed in 1988 - after Mgr. Lefebvre's unauthorised episcopal consecration - where the bishop were asked for a "wide and generous application" of the previous indult, especially as it mandated the possibility that religious communities could celebrate the traditional liturgy. These Papal decrees did not lead to the release of the 'old' Mass Dr. de Saventhem struggled for, not least due to the negative stance of some bishops.
On 13 October 1993, Dr. de Saventhem made an official petition to Pope John Paul II in the form of a careful analysis of the granting of permission for the traditional Mass where it was petitioned; unfortunately only a dry meaningless answer came from the Vatican in early 1994.
In 1993, Dr. de Saventhem handed his office over to his successor, Michael Davies. However since then, he, now as Honorary President, spoke up with a vigilant spirit and constant care for the survival of the traditional liturgy.
In the end, he retired to his new home in Bonn, near his beloved sister, the Reverend Sister Isa Vermehren.
The Requiem for Eric M. de Saventhem was celebrated according to the 1962 at the Kreuzbergkirche in Bonn on Friday 6 May 2005. His final resting place is in the Bonn-Popplsdorf Cemetery.
Message from Mgr. Perl to Ralf Siebenbuerger
Dear Mr. Siebenbuerger,
I wish to extend my sincerest sympathy on the death of Dr. Eric de Saventhem to you as his successor as President of Una Voce International. I knew the deceased well and valued his friendship and his death troubles me. Above all I know he himself would tell me "I am well, even better, because I am with the Lord". He was a man of faith and a man of the Church. Both helped him on the occasion of acting as a mediator with Archbishop LeFebvre, though in the end this was not successful. He was more successful in representing the petitions for the old liturgy and Una Voce here in Rome and was never tired, when in conversation with those in positions of responsibility to advise of the importance of this problem; to say he made progress in the final analysis would be no lie. Now it remains to hope our new Pope Benedict XVi, who often received Mr. de Saventhem, will continue on this way.
Dr. de Saventhem may encourage him from Heaven.