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First Irish symposium on Ratzinger’s theology

By Sarah Mac Donald - 23 June, 2013

The first ever symposium on Joseph Ratzinger’s theology to be held in Ireland took place in Maynooth this weekend and brought together former students of the pope emeritus as well as speakers from Ireland, Poland and Germany.

‘The Dynamism of Ratzinger’s Theology’ was held at the Divine Word Missionaries’ house in Co Kildare and was organised by retired professor of moral theology in Maynooth, Fr Vincent Twomey, SVD, who is a former doctoral student of Benedict XVI.

He was joined by Fr Stephen Otto Horn, SDS, professor emeritus of theology at Passau University in Germany and the director of the Ratzinger Schülerkreis.

Fr Horn’s paper was titled, ‘On the Spiritual Dimensions of Ratzinger’s Theology’.

Speaking to CiNews after the two-day symposium, Fr Twomey said the symposium came about due to the presence in Ireland of five young theologians who have recently completed postgraduate work on Ratzinger’s theology. Of the five, just one is a priest and all the others are members of the laity.

Funding for the conference was provided by the Ratzinger Foundation in Munich, of which Fr Horn is director, as well as the SVDs in Ireland.

Fr Horn met the pope emeritus as recently as three weeks’ ago to discuss this year’s Ratzinger Schülerkreis and described the pope as “fresh” both physically and mentally.

Benedict chose this year’s speaker, Rene Braque, and the theme, ‘Faith in Contemporary Civil Society’ according to Fr Horn.

However, the retired pope has decided not to attend the gathering at the end of August and beginning of September, as he has every year since it was established.

“When I was with him, I asked him if it would be possible for him to attend, perhaps even for part of it. But he said he will stay at his convent and will not go to Castel Gondolfo,” Fr Horn said.

Asked about the absence of Joseph Ratzinger from the proceedings for the first time, Fr Vincent Twomey told CiNews that the schülerkreis evolved out of a doctoral colloquium and it was now evolving again.

“Effectively, we are all getting old. Every year one or two people die – so it can’t continue. We’ll go this year primarily out of homage to Benedict,” he said.

He added that in a sense the pope emeritus’ resignation had freed members of the schülerkreis “to be more creative.”

“We don’t have to defend him any more. I’ve spent all my life trying to defend Ratzinger because he was so much attacked. Since his resignation that is gone,” he explained.

One of those who gave an address at the Maynooth symposium was Dr Michaela Hastetter, who is acting professor of pastoral theology at the University of Freiburg in Germany.

The overall conference took its title from her talk on ‘The Dynamism of Joseph Ratzinger’s Theology’. She is also co-ordinator of the young Ratzinger schülerkreis, which first came about in Castel Gondolfo in 2008.

“We now number thirty young theologians, most of whom are doing doctoral work. Over half are from Germany and Austria, and the others come from Mexico, Chile, USA, Africa, Spain, Greece, Romania, France and Italy. Two of them are Greek Orthodox and one is Romanian orthodox,” she said.

Another contributor to the symposium, Dr Mary Frances McKenna of All Hallows College, Dublin, spoke about ‘Ratzinger’s Concept of a Female Line in the Bible – Innovation within the Tradition of the Church’.

“The concept of a female line is a window into his theological positions and ideas whose development tracks the theological journey of his life,” she explained.

The 40-year-old earned her PhD in theology last year and her post-doctoral research is on the theme of Mary in relation to the Trinity, creation and anthropology.

She described the Ratzinger symposium as “the beginning of a real assessment of Ratzinger as a theologian.”

“Although he was a well known theologian prior to his Vatican days and has continued to write as a theologian right up to his time as pope, it is only now that he is no longer pope that an assessment of Ratzinger the theologian, is truly possible.”

In relation to his legacy as pope, Dr McKenna said it includes the large body of writings he published over his lifetime.

“These writings have achieved a significant prominence due to his election as pope which they otherwise would not have had. Clarity, succinctness and the ability to get to the heart of the matter are the hallmarks of his writings which make then easy to read,” she said.

Other papers presented at the symposium were:
‘Joseph Ratzinger’s Idea of God as Dia-logos: a Contribution to Contemporary Society?’ by Philip Cremin

‘Inner Dynamic of Divine Worship. Joseph Ratzinger on Liturgical Development’ by Dr Mariusz Bilieniwicz

‘Revelation and Reception within the Living Church: The Dynamic, Ecclesial Dimensions of Theology in Ratzinger’ by Dr Mary McCaughey of Maynooth

‘Cooperatores Veritatis: Ratzinger the Theologian’ by Dr Vincent Twomey.

Pic shows (l to r) Dr D. Vincent Twomey, SVD, professor emeritus of moral theology at Maynooth; Dr Michaela Hastetter, acting professor of pastoral theology at the University of Freiburg; Dr Stephen Otto Horn, SDS, professor emeritus of theology at Passau University and the director of the Ratzinger Schülerkreis.

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