Huub Oosterhuis - Huub Oosterhuis

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Huub Oosterhuis
Huub Oosterhuis Portrait.jpg
BornHubertus Gerardus Josephus Henricus Oosterhuis
(1933-11-01) 1 November 1933 (age 87)
Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Bible
  • socialism
Notable worksLiedboek voor de Kerken (psalms) (1973)

Hubertus Gerardus Josephus Henricus Oosterhuis (born 1933) is a Dutch theologian and poet. He is mainly known for his contribution to Christian music and liturgy in the Dutch language, used in both Protestant and Roman Catholic churches, although a few songs have been censored in some dioceses.[1] He is the author of over 60 books and at the time of over 700 hymns, songs, Psalms (often in an own interpretation), and prayers.[2]


Oosterhuis was born on 1 November 1933 in Amsterdam. He was a Jesuit and is a Roman Catholic priest.

In 1954, inspired by Che Guevara who said that churches have the potential to transform the social structure of society,[3] Oosterhuis combined his priesthood with political activism.

In 1965, Oosterhuis became one of the major supporters of ecumenism, following the modernist interpretation of the Second Vatican Council. He started out to rewrite the liturgy and make it acceptable to all. Some of his changes were considered controversial within the Roman Catholic Church especially writing the prayer for agnostics: "Heer, als U bestaat, kom dan onder ons" ("Lord, if You exist, come amongst us").

His political views, conflicts regarding the liturgy and unorthodox views regarding priestly celibacy led to Oosterhuis being dismissed from the Jesuit order in 1969.[4] He left the Catholic Church and functioned as an Independent Catholic priest, in charge of a church in Amsterdam, for about forty years. He is still focussed on writing liturgy, poetry and essays.

Back in the sixties and seventies his liturgical texts were put to music by his fellow former Jesuit Bernard Huijbers [nl] (1922–2003). The co-operation between Oosterhuis and Huijbers ended. The last engaged himself more and more in a "spirituality-without-God" or "- without-Thou", whereas the former kept to his biblical prayers, hymns, psalms. After they both split up and Huijbers moved to the South of France, Oosterhuis' main composers were two of Huijbers' pupils, Antoine Oomen [nl] (born 1945) and Tom Löwenthal (born 1954).

Oosterhuis founded the discussion center "De Rode Hoed [nl]" ("The Red Hat") in Amsterdam in 1989. The building was a former Remonstrant shelter church, hidden because Remonstrantism was outlawed in the 17th century. The building was more or less deserted at the time. Oosterhuis wanted to use it for his student organization (1990) and create a discussion center. Its nice interior made it also very suitable for TV-shows. After a short period Oosterhuis was replaced by a managing-director for a more commercial exploitation of this prominent building in Amsterdam's Canal zone.

Prince Claus

In 2002 Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands asked him to deliver the eulogy at the funeral of her Prince-Consort Claus von Amsberg, a longtime personal friend, in the New Church in Delft. That same week the Protestant VU University in Amsterdam granted Oosterhuis an honorary doctorate in theology.[citation needed]

It was at De Rode Hoed where André van der Louw announced his Social Democratic Renewal Program which was an incentive to reform the Labour Party. Oosterhuis ultimately choose the lesser known Socialist Party as he viewed it closer to socialist ideals. He also opined that "The Socialist Party is closer to the social ethics of the Bible than many Christian parties."[5]

In 2006 elections Oosterhuis stood as final candidate, a symbolic position, for the Socialist Party.

Oosterhuis translated the Torah together with Alex van Heusden [nl], which was released in five separate books, as an attempt to translate the first five books of the Bible as close to contemporary Dutch as possible without losing the style figures of the original Hebrew text.

Huub Oosterhuis is the father of the musicians Trijntje Oosterhuis and Tjeerd Oosterhuis.


Very few books, poems, verses of Huub Oosterhuis were translated into English: e.g. Fifty Psalms, Your Word is Near, At Times I See, The Children of the Poor Man, Wake Your Power (CD).

Some of his songs were translated to German. Lothar Zenetti translated his "Ik sta voor U" to "Ich steh vor dir mit leeren Händen, Herr" (I stand before You with empty hands), which was included in German Protestant and Catholic hymnals. "Herr, wir bringen in Brot und Wein" is a translation of an offertory hymn, by Dieter Trautwein with a melody by Peter Janssens which is included in Gotteslob.


  1. ^ "Episcopal censor bans famous church music". Archived from the original on 6 May 2011.
  2. ^ Digital Library for the Dutch literature Author page Huub Oosterhuis (Retrieved: 21 September 2006)
  3. ^ Tribune Archived 6 February 2006 at the Wayback Machine Interview with Huub Oosterhuis, 22 October 2004. (Retrieved: 21 September 2006)
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 September 2015. Retrieved 24 February 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ Interview in De Telegraaf, 21 December 2002.