By Robin Gomes
Although the 2019 Ratzinger Prize winners come from different continents and cultural backgrounds, Pope Francis said, they teach us that theology should "be and remain in active dialogue with cultures”, always seeking the way to God and the encounter with Christ.
The Pope made the remark while conferring the 2019 Ratzinger Prize at a ceremony in the Vatican, November 9.
The Ratzinger Prize by the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation was begun in 2011 to recognize scholars whose work demonstrates a meaningful contribution to theology in the spirit of German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Benedict XVI and is Pope Emeritus since February 2013.
Taylor, a philosopher and professor emeritus at McGill University, is being honoured for his profound analysis of the phenomenon of secularization.
Father Béré, the first African to win the Ratzinger Prize, is particularly known for his work on the figure of the biblical figure Joshua, who, according to the 53-year old priest, is a source of inspiration for the Church in Africa, especially regarding the transmission of values from one generation to another.
Dialogue with cultures
In conferring the prize, Pope Francis pointed out that it is "a duty for theology to be and remain in active dialogue with cultures", even as they change over time and evolve differently in various parts of the world. At the same time, it is a condition necessary for the vitality of Christian faith, for the Church’s mission of evangelization.
It is from this perspective, he said, Taylor and Father Béré have made important contributions.
The Pope acknowledged Taylor’s contribution to the understanding of the phenomenon of secularization in our time, which he said is a significant challenge for the Catholic Church, for all Christians and for all believers in God.
“Few scholars in the present day,” the Pope said, “have posed the problem of secularization with the breadth of vision as has Professor Taylor.” He has carefully analyzed the development of Western culture, the movements of the human mind and heart over time, in their shadows and lights.
The Pope said Taylor invites us to intuit and seek new ways to “live and express the transcendent dimensions of the human soul, those spiritual dimensions in which the Spirit continues to work imperceptibly”. “This allows us to deal with Western secularization in a way that is neither superficial nor given to fatalistic discouragement,” the Pope said.
Inculturation in Africa
In honouring Father Béré, Pope Francis said he wished to express his appreciation and encouragement to all those committed to the inculturation of the faith in Africa through their “original and deepened study”.
He recalled that the first centuries had produced the great figures of Tertullian, Cyprian, Augustine in northern Africa, but the spread of Islam and subsequent colonialism had prevented a true African inculturation of the Christian message until the second half of the last century. However, the Pope pointed out that contemporary African theology is still young but dynamic and full of promise. “Father Béré,” he said, “provides an example of this by his work on the interpretation of Old Testament texts in a context of oral culture, thus bringing to fruition the experience of African culture.” The priest has also committed himself to make the Synods that he participated in, known, understood, and received in the African context.