Pope Francis with Pope emeritus Benedict XVI (archive photo) Pope Francis with Pope emeritus Benedict XVI (archive photo) 

Pope Francis: Benedict XVI's theology is not for the past, but fruitful for the future

At the 2022 Ratzinger Prize award ceremony, Pope Francis highlights the significant contributions of the recipients - Fr. Michel Fédou, SJ, and Professor Joseph H.H. Weiler – and hails the prestigious award for providing indications of lines of commitment for study and life, which should be proposed to everyone.

By Benedict Mayaki, SJ

Pope Francis addressed participants at the 2022 Ratzinger Prize award ceremony on Thursday, during which this year's recipients - Father Michel Fédou and Prof. Joseph Halevi Horowitz Weiler - were presented with the prestigious award.

The Ratzinger award, launched in 2011, is given to scholars that have stood out for their scientific research in the theological field, much like Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI. Over the years, recipients have included composers, artists, and writers who have made notable contributions to the world of arts related to Christianity.

The contributions of Benedict XVI

In his speech, Pope Francis greeted those present for the occasion, and in particular, the two recipients of the 2022 Ratzinger Prize.

Pope Francis then highlighted the “spiritual presence and accompaniment in prayer” of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI for the whole Church, and highlighted that the occasion reaffirmed the contribution of his theological work and thought which “continue to be fruitful and operative.”

Recalling the recently commemorated 60th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Francis pointed to Father Joseph Ratzinger's role at the Council, as an expert who helped in the creation of some of its documents; and then in his calling as Pope Benedict XVI to “lead the ecclesial community in its implementation, both alongside St. John Paul II and [then as Pastor of the universal Church.”

Even recently, Pope Francis noted, Benedict XVI still wanted to highlight how the Council enduringly exercises its crucial function, as it gave us the necessary guidelines to reformulate the central question of the nature and mission of the Church in our time (in his message for the 10th International Symposium of the Ratzinger Foundation, Oct. 7, 2022). In fact, Benedict XVI has “helped us to read the conciliar documents in-depth, proposing a "hermeneutic of reform and continuity."

Furthermore, Benedict XVI’s theological contributions are offered through the publication of the Opera Omnia, the German edition of which is nearing completion, while the translation in other languages continues to progress.

“These contributions, offer us a solid theological basis for the Church's journey: a ‘living’ Church, which he taught us to see and live as communion, and which is on the move - in "synod" - guided by the Spirit of the Lord, always open to the mission of proclaiming the Gospel and serving the world in which it lives.”

The Pope then encouraged collaboration between Vatican Foundations named after Blessed John Paul I and St. John Paul II, as well as the Joseph Ratzinger Foundation, noting that the service of the Benedict XVI Foundation is placed in the perspective of the conviction that his magisterium and thought “are not directed toward the past, but are fruitful for the future, for the implementation of the Council and for the dialogue between the Church and the world today, in the most topical and debated fields, such as integral ecology, human rights, and the encounter between different cultures.”

The awardees

Pope Francis then shifted his attention to the prizewinners – Father Michel Fédou and Prof. Joseph Halevi Horowitz Weiler – pointing at their accomplishments in the fields of study and teaching – fields considered by Ratzinger to be “of vital importance.”

Fr. Fédou

Concerning Fr. Fédou, the Pope noted that this “master of Christian theology” has dedicated his life to study and teaching, particularly of the works of the Eastern and Western Church Fathers and the development of Christology over the centuries. Also, in order not to focus his gaze only on the past, his knowledge of the faith tradition nourished in him a living thought, which was also able to address current issues in the field of ecumenism and in that of relations with other religions.

In Fr. Fédou, the Pope noted, “we recognize and pay tribute to a valiant heir and continuer of the great tradition of French theology, which has given the Church masters of the stature of Father Henri De Lubac and solid and courageous cultural enterprises such as the Sources Chrétiennes, whose publication began eighty years ago.”

“Without the contribution of this French theology, the richness, depth, and breadth of reflection on which the Second Vatican Council was nourished would not have been possible, and we must hope that it will continue to bear fruit for its implementation in the long run,” Pope Francis said.

Prof. Weiler

Pope Francis hailed Prof. Weiler as the first adherent of the Jewish faith to be awarded the prestigious prize. The Pope welcomed this, noting that Benedict XVI firmly and proudly affirmed that "an objective of his personal theological work had been from the beginning the sharing and promotion of all the steps of reconciliation between Christians and Jews taken since the Council."

The Holy Father further noted the harmony between Benedict XVI and Prof. Weiler in other issues, including the relationship between faith and juridical reason in the contemporary world; the crisis of juridical positivism and the conflicts generated by an unlimited extension of subjective rights; and the proper understanding of the exercise of religious freedom in a culture that tends to relegate religion to the private sphere.

Prof. Weiler, the Pope said, has not only conducted in-depth studies on them, but has also taken courageous positions, moving, when necessary, from the academic level to the level of discussion – or ‘discernment’ – in the search for consensus on fundamental values and the overcoming of conflicts for the common good.

“These awards, in addition to representing well-deserved recognition, offer the indication of lines of commitment, study, and life of great significance, which elicit our admiration and demand to be proposed for the attention of all.”

Concluding, Pope Francis reiterated his congratulations to the awardees and wished them the best in the continuation of their endeavors. He also invoked God’s blessing upon them, their families and friends, and the members and supporters of the Ratzinger Foundation.

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01 December 2022, 11:41