Willi Henkel OMI (1930-2020)

The Gesellschaft für Konziliengeschichtsforschung e.V. would like to remember a friend who passed away recently: P. Willi Henkel, who died at the age of 90 on the night of 19th November 2020, after contracting COVID-19. Born on 17th January 1930 in Wittges, near Fulda, Germany, he entered Maria Engelport, a daughter community of the Oblates of Hünfeld, in 1951.

After studying in Rome, he obtained a licence degree in Philosophy (in 1955) and in Theology (in 1959) at the Pontifical Gregorian University. He was ordained as a priest on 13th July 1958 and returned to Germany after completing his studies. From the beginning his life was marked by a vocation - no less deeply spiritual than intellectual - for the missions. After his doctorate in missiology at the Catholic University of Münster, with a thesis on the theology of conversion according to John Henry Newman, he came back to Rome and in 1966 began working in the Vatican editorial office of "Bibliotheca Missionum" and "Bibliografia Missionaria" alongside P. Johannes Rommerskirchen and P. Josef Metzler. In 1978 he was appointed successor to P. Rommerskirchen as Director of the Pontifical Missionary Library of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in Piazza di Spagna, and later of the Library of the Pontifical Urbaniana University, since 1980 united in the new building in the Urbaniana complex on the Janiculum Hill. Since 1973 he has been Professor of History of the Missions at the same university and, since 1991, consultant to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

He retired in 2000 and returned to Germany, spending the last years of his life in the Oblate community in Hünfeld. He passed away during (and because of) the pandemic, leaving behind the imprint of an exemplary and hard-working Christian life, inflexibly measured by simplicity and humility.

P. Willi Henkel collaborated actively with the project of the Gesellschaft für Konziliengeschichtsforschung and distinguished himself as a respected author for the book series “History of Councils” and the journal AHC. His many publications include the following:

  • Willi Henkel (Rom), mit einer Einführung von Horst Pietschmann (Hamburg), Konzile in Lateinamerika Bd. I: Mexiko 1555-1897, XVI + 272 S., 1984

  • Willi Henkel (Hünfeld) / Josep-Ignasi Saranyana (Pamplona), Konzile in Lateinamerika Bd. II: Lima 1551–1927, XXVI + 306 S., 2010


  • Das Inventar des «Fondo Concilii» im Archiv des Konzilskongregation, in: AHC 15 (1983), 430–451

  • Glaubensverkündigung nach dem Predigtbuch von Lima (1585), in: AHC 27-28/2 (1995), 719–736

  • Die Wirkungsgeschichte des dritten Provinzialkonzils von Lima, in: AHC 38/1 (2006) 199-212

  • Catholic Missions in the XX Century, in: AHC 44/2 (2012) 263-290.