Eminent Roman Catholic theologian Hans Urs Van Balthasar died at his home in Switzerland early Sunday, two days before he was to have been made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II, the Vatican announced. He was 82.

The Vatican said Von Balthasar died suddenly, probably of a heart attack, at his home in Basel, Switzerland.

Von Balthasar was one of 25 men from 18 countries who were due to receive from the pope the red silk hat and gold ring that denote a cardinal at a concistory in the Vatican on Tuesday.

The honor was a mark of the pope's special esteem for Von Balthasar's work as a theologian, which has found expression in 74 books and more than 500 essays and articles.