By Sarah Mac Donald - 28 August, 2015
This year’s Ratzinger Schülerkreis, the annual seminar for former students of Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI, will meet from 27-30 August in Castel Gandolfo to discuss modern man’s search for God.
About 40 former students are expected to attend this year’s meeting, along with a number of younger scholars specialising in the theological writings of the former Pontiff.
The retired professor of moral theology in Maynooth, Dr Vincent Twomey SVD, who is a former student of the retired Pope’s, has attended these gatherings annually.
Since his 2013 resignation, Benedict has not attended the Schülerkreis, except to say Mass for the group at its conclusion.
However, the Pope emeritus closely follows the works of his former students, and personally chooses the themes for each annual discussion from three sent to him by members of the Schülerkreis.
In recent years, they have focused on the theology of the cross; the question of God amid secularism; and ecumenism.
This year’s seminar will open with a presentation by Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, who is himself a former Ratzinger student.
The invited guests will include Maronite Catholic Patriarch Bechara Rai and the Czech scholar Tomas Halik, the 2014 winner of the Templeton Prize.
Salvatorian Fr Stephan Horn, who was Ratzinger’s academic assistant at the University of Regensburg from 1971 to 1977, is now the organiser of the annual Schuelerkreis meeting.
He told the Catholic News Agency that Pope-emeritus Benedict sees this year’s topic as the central question facing our age.
According to Fr Horn, the former Pontiff sees faith in the progress of man as an ideology and contrasts that ideology with the reality that “the centre of history is the living God who opened himself in Jesus Christ, and true progress is found in faith.”
The schülerkreis was formed in 1978 after Professor Ratzinger, who had been teaching at the University of Regensburg, was appointed Archbishop of Munich.
The future Pontiff continued to gather this former students each year. He was an active participant in the annual seminars until his resignation in 2013.
In his interview with CNA, Fr Horn said Benedict “did not explain in-depth the reasons why he asked us to discuss ‘Speaking about God in the contemporary world’, but is evident that to him the Word of God is the true need of today’s world, and that the Church needs to find new ways to speak about God.”
He emphasised that “today’s culture itself makes speech about God necessary, as there is a different trend – that is, speaking only about what man can do, about the so called ‘homo Faber’” and so there is a need for “a new way to search for truth and to meet the great challenges of modern man.”
According to Fr Horn the search for new means to speak of God has been at the core of Benedict’s theological work since the Second Vatican Council.
“It been widely said that the Second Vatican Council spoke about the Church, and the relation between the Church and the world. But Joseph Ratzinger saw that the quest for God was the main issue at the Second Vatican Council, as was shown by the fact that the very first document issued by the council was the constitution on the liturgy,” Fr Horn explained.