On October 14, 2019 at 14.15h Father Elders passed away quietly and peacefully at this residence at the Mission House of the Societas Verbi Divini in Teteringen (Netherlands). The funeral was celebrated on October 19 in the chapel by Mgr. E. De Jong, his former pupil and auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Roermond and concelebrated by the provincial and by the rector of the Mission House, after which he was buried at the cemetery of the Mission House.
Until October 1 he was working on several book projects.
- The English edition of his Aristote et Thomas d’Aquin (Les Presses universitaires de l’IPC, Paris, 2018, 650 p. ISBN 979-10-93043-23-4) which is forthcoming.
- His Les Noms Divins de Denys le Pseudo-Aréopagite selon Saint Thomas d’Aquin (Les Presses universitaires de l’IPC, Paris 2019, forthcoming). An English translation is in preparation.
- An unfinished commentary on Aquinas’ De substantiis separatis.
As such, Divine providence arranged it that in the final months of his earthly life, he put into practice the words written by St. Thomas in his preface to De substantiis separatis:
“Quia sacris Angelorum solemniis interesse non possumus, non debet nobis devotionis tempus transire in vacuum; sed quod psallendi officio subtrahitur, scribendi studio compensetur.”
The passing away marks the end of an era within Thomism. He was deeply steeped into the commentatorial and manualist tradition during his formation years (because “Leo Elders can easily manage his studies” as one of his teachers Father Grevelhörster would say, Leo Elders was given extra study assignments, apart from the usual manuals by Gredt, Diekamp and Prümmer, by way of the study of the works of Norberto Del Prado, Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Cajetan and John of St. Thomas), a tradition which, contrary to most of his contemporaries, he always held in high regard. His academic studies under the direction of Cornelia de Vogel, Vianney Décarie and Werner Jaeger taught him the love and appreciation for the original texts and the world of classical culture so that he could fully immerse himself in the historical method of contemporary Thomism.
Emphasizing the crucial importance of Aristotle for both the philosophy and theology of St. Thomas, Father Elders often compared the transposition of Aristotle brought about by St. Thomas to the systematic rebuilding of an historical monument: the old bricks, slates, and beams are still used, but a more coherent whole is produced; some new windows are added; there is now much more light in the building, which becomes more livable; a new clarity envelops the whole monument. A useful summary of this position can be found in his ‘Saint Thomas d’Aquin et Aristote,’ Revue Thomiste 96 (1988): 357-376).
In turning his scholarly attention to Aquinas’s biblical exegesis and reading of the Church Fathers, he was instrumental in what is now called ‘biblical Thomism’ or ‘ressourcement Thomism’. Many of these studies are collected in Sur les traces de saint Thomas d’Aquin : Étude de ses commentaires bibliques. Thèmes théologiques (Paris : Parole et Silence/Presses Universitaires de l’IPC, 2009), pp. 590. In addition there are ‘La présence de saint Grégoire le Grand dans les œuvres de saint Thomas d’Aquin,’ in Nova & Vetera (Fribourg) 86 (2011/2) : 155-180 ; ‘The Presence of the Church Fathers in Aquinas’ Commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of John,’, in: Roszak, P. & Vijgen, J. (Eds.), Reading Sacred Scriptures with Thomas Aquinas. Hermeneutical Tools, Theological Questions and New Perspectives, Turnhout, Brepols 2015, pp. 257-286; ‘La présence de Saint Ambroise dans les écrits de Thomas d’Aquin’, in: Nova & Vetera (Fribourg) 94 (2019), 77-102 and ‘The Presence of the Alexandrian and Cappadocian Fathers of the Church in the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas’, in Espíritu (Barcelona) 2019 (forthcoming).
On the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of his Ordination to the Priesthood in 2003 he was honored by a Festschrift, prefaced by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The future Pope Benedict XVI wrote:
„Er kennt Thomas durch und durch; wer Thomas kennt und gründlich studiert, kennt aber nicht nur Thomas, sondern die vielfältigen Flüsse philosophischen und theologischen Denkens, die er zum Strom zusammengeführt und denen er die Richtung in die Zukunft – die Richtung zu ihrem Ziel hin gewiesen hat: zur ewigen Weisheit, die zu suchen Sinn alles philosophischen Fragens ist. Pater Elders kennt Thomas und die große philosophische Überlieferung und findet darin den Horizont seines Denkens. Er kennt die leitenden Fragen und Einsichten, die im Ringen der Jahrhunderte gewachsen sind, aber er findet auch den Mut, sich den Herausforderungen von heute zu stellen, und gerade das war ja das Große des Aquinaten, das er von seinen Schülern immer wieder fordert.“ (J. Ratzinger, “Grußwort”, in: J. Vijgen (Red.), «Indubitanter ad veritatem», Studies offered to Leo Elders SVD in Honor of the Golden Jubilee of his Ordination to the Priesthood, Damon, Budel 2003, p. 11.)
Several instances of an In memoriam in various languages are currently in preparation.