The following address was delivered at the meeting of the International Academy of Practical Theology at Sao Leopoldo, Brazil on April 7, 2019, in commemoration of Johannes A. van der Ven.
Dear members and guests of the International Academy of Practical Theology!
It is sad news which make me address you. This morning we learned that Hans van der Ven passed away two days ago.
I have been asked to say a few words commemorating him.
I have known Hans for a long time. We first met in 1987 at one of the Tuebingen conferences which later led to the founding of the International Academy. Hans was one of the small number of people who founded the Academy in Princeton in 1991.
Hans first of all was a practical theologian. Many will see empirical theology as his main contribution and achievement, including the Journal of Empirical Theology which he founded about 30 years ago. Yet Hans never equaled empirical research with practical theology. He was also very interested in theology, in systematic theology, especially in post-Vatican II theology. His major books testify to this, like his book on the Church (almost as monumental as the Bible), his continued interest in theodicy which he treated both theologically and empirically, but also his last major topic Human Rights.
I well remember Hans asking me at one the meetings of the Academy if I thought that he should devote the rest of his academic life to this topic (and I agreed). It was a well-considered choice.
Hans also was a wonderful colleague and teacher – a teacher of teachers. His Nijmegen team including his former doctoral students show this in the first place. To just mention those who many in the Academy will remember: Chris Hermans, Hans-Georg Ziebertz, Carl Sterkens, Paul Vermeer.
There would be many other colleagues to mention – colleagues who came to Nijmegen for one of the conferences and symposiums, study groups and exchanges which Hans organized. His inspirations were dear to many in the field.
And certainly Hans was a friend, a personal friend and a caring friend who was interested in what others were doing and how they were doing.
Next year Hans would have turned 80.
I have lost a friend, we all have lost a friend!
I invite you to stand in order to commemorate Hans with a moment of silence.
Friedrich Schweitzer (University of Tübingen, Germany)