Cardinal Jozef Tomko, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and President emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for the International Eucharistic Congresses, was born on 11 March 1924 in Udavské (Slovakia). He studied at the faculty of theology of Bratislava and then at the Pontifical Lateran University and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome where he earned doctorates in theology, canon law and social sciences.
On 12 March 1949 he was ordained a priest and from 1950 to 1965 he was vice rector of the Pontifical Nepomuceno College.
From 1962 he served as an assistant and from 1966 he was head of the doctrinal office of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. In that period he was chosen as one of the special secretaries for the first synodal assembly of 1967.
In December 1974 he was named under-secretary of the Congregation for Bishops.
On 12 July 1979 he was named Secretary general of the Synod of Bishops. Contemporarily he was elected titular Archbishop of Doclea. He received his episcopal ordination on 15 September 1979.
From 1980-1983 he prepared and took care of the activities of 2 ordinary general synods and in 1980 a particular synod of Bishops of the Netherlands. He also began the preparation of the extraordinary synod of 1985 on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the closing of Vatican Council II and the ordinary of 1987 on the vocation and mission of lay people.
He has also been active on an international level in the area of ecumenism. In 1972, he was a delegate of the Holy See at the World Lutheran Federation and the World Council of Churches in Geneva. He has also headed the Holy See’s delegation at the reunion of European Ministers for the Affairs of the Family held in Rome in 1981.
After a brief experience teaching at the international University ‘Pro-Deo’ (1955-1956), he held courses at the Gregorian University from 1970-1978. Even with such a busy schedule he managed to carry out his pastoral ministry in the numerous parishes of Rome and in the diocese of Porto-Santa Rufina. He was co-founder of a religious journal and the Sts. Cyril and Methodius Institute in Rome. He has also visited many times the Slovak communities in the USA, Canada and Europe.
He has also been sent by the Holy See to bishops’ meetings: Pan-Asiatic Conference in Manila (1970); Plenary Assembly in Oceania, Sydney (1973); Conference of Puebla (1979): Celebrations of the 25th Foundation of the CELAM in Rio de Janeiro (1980), meeting of SECAM in Yaoundé (1981).
Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Urban University, 27 May 1985 - 9 April 2001.
President delegate of the Special Assembly for Asia of the Synod of Bishops (1998).
President of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses, 15 October 2001 - 1° October 2007.
Created and proclaimed Cardinal by St. John Paul II in the Consistory of 25 May 1985, of the Title of St. Sabina.