The sun rises over Munich’s cathedral, 9 Feb 2008/Alexandra BeierThe Ratzinger Schülerkreis, the group of Pope Benedict’s former theology students, plans to launch a foundation bearing his name this November in Munich. The group, which held its annual meeting with its former teacher at Castel Gandolfo last weekend, aims to promote theological studies “in the spirit of Joseph Ratzinger”. Reflecting the international character of the Schülerkreis, the Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI foundation has a board of trustees with former students from Germany, Portugal, Ireland, Benin and the United States.

The Schülerkreis itself, which has been meeting for 30 years, is slowly taking on a more organised feel. For years, the closed-door meetings of several dozen former students and their professor went on below the radar screen of the outside world. That changed, though, when Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict and the meetings were switched to the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. There was still no media access, but diligent telephoning to participants yielded a rundown of the discussions. The 2006 discussion on creation was considered so interesting that the Schülerkreis decided to publish the proceedings the following year in a book Creation and Evolution.

Now they’ve even started issuing press releases after their talks. Rev. Vincent Twomey, an Irish Schüler who has written Pope Benedict XVI: The Conscience of Our Age, was the author and he’s sent me the text. Since we didn’t cover the meeting this year for the wire, here’s the press release:

Pope Benedict waves at his Vatican general audience, 3 Sept 2008/Tony GentileMEETING OF THE POPE’S FORMER STUDENTS IN CASTEL GANDOLFOPope Benedict XVI held his annual meeting with his former doctoral and postdoctoral students at Castel Gandolfo from 28th August to 1st September. This was the thirtieth meeting since the circle was set up after the then Professor Joseph Ratzinger was made Cardinal Archbishop of Munich in 1977. Some forty former students from all over the world were present. Two world-famous Lutheran scriptural scholars, Martin Hengel and Peter Stuhlmacher (Tübingen) were invited to read papers in the presence of the Pope on the general topic of the historicity of the Gospel narratives and the particular topic of Jesus’ consciousness of the significance of his own pending death. The lively discussion that followed was made all the more significant by the fact that the Pope, who is in the process of writing the second volume of his book, Jesus of Nazareth, took an active part in the exchange of views with the same frankness, humour, and clarity that marked all his university seminars and colloquia.This meeting marked a new milestone in the history of the Schülerkreis for two reasons. Firstly, the final details of the newly established Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI Foundation were approved at the plenary sessions held under the chair of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn OP, Archbishop of Vienna. The Foundation will be publicly launched in Munich on 12th November 2008. The Foundation is devoted to the promotion of theology in the spirit of Joseph Ratzinger. The Board of Trustees, whose members include former students from Germany, Portugal, Ireland, Benin, and USA, reflects the international character of the Schülerkreis and the international scope of the Foundation’s outreach.Secondly, for the first time ever, doctoral students who are at present engaged in research into the Pope’s theology were invited to meet the Pope and his former students. Some seventeen young theologians presented their research projects at two sessions on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. This marks the beginning of a new generation of Ratzinger students.

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