Born in Essen-Oldenburg, Germany, Schutte took his first vows in the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) in 1934. After his ordination in 1939 and a short period of military service, he went to China in 1940, where he worked in the prefecture apostolic of North Honan (Henan). In 1947 he became acting prefect apostolic of Sinsiang (Xinxiang), and the following year the regional superior of the order. In 1949 the territory was taken over by the Communists. Schutte had to undergo interrogations, trials, threats, and house arrest. Finally, after seven months of rigorous imprisonment and a show trial broadcast over the whole province, he was expelled “forever” from China.
Back in Germany he earned a doctorate in missiology at the University of Munster with an honors thesis “Die katholische Chinamission im Spiegel der rotchinesischen Presse” (1957). He then lectured in missiology in St. Augustine’s Major Seminary near Bonn and in 1955 became mission secretary in the generalate of the SVD in Rome. In 1958 he was elected superior general of the order. In this position (1958-1967) his natural talent for leadership, his missionary experience and formation, as well as his energy and tenacity stood him in good stead. Under his administration the society took over new missionary activities in Formosa, Angola, Colombia, Ecuador, and Mexico. Among his constant concerns were the maintenance of missionaries; the fostering of vocations throughout the world; the establishment and extension of universities, institutes, and seminaries; the advanced training of personnel for different positions in the Society; and the intensification of mission promotion. As a superior general, he was a participant ex officio with voting rights at the Second Vatican Council. In 1964 he became president of the subcommission for the revision of the schema De Missionibus; in this capacity he made a substantial contribution to the compilation of the mission decree Ad Gentes. In 1967 the commentary Mission nach dem Konzil (1967) appeared under his name. After the council he was elected to the Council of 24 in the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. He was a member of the first Roman Synod of Bishops. In 1968 he became vice-secretary of the Pontifical Commission Justitia et Pax. He was only 58 when he died in Rome as a result of a car accident.
This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.
- In Memoriam: P. Johannes Schutte. Sechster Generalsuperior SVD (l972); “In Mcmoriam Dr. P. Johannes Schutte SVD,” ZMR 56 (1972): 52; J. Schmitz, “P. Johannes Schutte, 6. Generalsuperior SVD,” Steyler Missionschronik (1973): 167-168.