Benedict XVI to Meet His Former Students

Will Discuss Creation and Evolution

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RIMINI, Italy, AUG. 24, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI will meet with his former students to discuss evolution and creation, reported Cardinal Christoph Schönborn.



Speaking from Rimini on Wednesday, the archbishop of Vienna confirmed that the meeting will take place Sept. 1-3 in Castel Gandolfo, where the Pope is spending the summer.

The cardinal was in Rimini attending the Meeting for Friendship among Peoples, organized by the movement Communion and Liberation.

Cardinal Schönborn said that the meeting is an annual one that the Holy Father has had with his doctoral candidates for some 25 years.

"Professor Joseph Ratzinger had a great number of students who did their doctorates with him," the cardinal said, "and when he became archbishop of Munich in 1977, some, who had not finished their work, asked if they could continue meeting with him. Since then, the idea arose of an annual meeting with Ratzinger and his doctoral candidates."

"They invited me from the start to these meetings," said the cardinal, who worked with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, in writing the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

"The meetings, of two to three days duration, were held in Bavaria, or other places, and Cardinal Ratzinger shared with us the great thematic lines of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith," he said.

New location

"A meeting was planned for last August, in Bavaria; everything was ready, but the election as Pontiff took place and the Holy Father said, during the first audience to one of us, that we would see one another in Castel Gandolfo," added Cardinal Schönborn.

Last year's meeting was on Islam. "In 25 years, a different topic has always been chosen. Professors are invited to speak on the argument and there is an academic discussion," the Austrian cardinal said.

Regarding this year's theme, evolution and creation, Cardinal Schönborn said that "the debate of these months has undoubtedly motivated the Holy Father's election, but if a list of his books on this topic is made, one sees that he has been talking about it for a long time."

"He was one of the German theologians who, as early as the 60s, underlined intensely the need to return to the topic of creation, when theologians were not speaking about it," the cardinal said.

As Pope, Benedict XVI has spoken on several occasions on this topic.

In the homily of the Mass to inaugurate his Pontificate, on April 24, 2005, he said: "We are not the accidental product, without meaning, of evolution. Each one of us is the fruit of a thought of God. Each one of us is loved, each one is loved, each one is necessary."

Also participating in the closed-door meeting will be Peter Schuster, molecular biologist and president of Austria's Academy of Sciences, Jesuit Paul Elbrich, professor of philosophy of Munich; and professor Robert Spaemann, former professor of philosophy at Munster, Stuttgart and Heidelberg, and author of numerous writings on ethics and political philosophy.