Pope Confers 'Ratzinger Prize' to Theology Scholars

Pontiff Emphasizes Importance of Academia and the New Evangelization

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By Pietro Gennarini

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 22, 2012 (Zenit.org).- On Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI met in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace with the Synod Fathers to award the "Ratzinger Prize" to 2 recipients: Prof. Rémi Brague of France, a layman and a scholar of the philosophy of religions, and the Most Reverend Prof. Brian E. Daley, SJ, of the United States, historian of patristic theology.

The Holy Father thanked the recipients for their work while emphasizing the true mission and importance of academic work. The Pope explained that such work is possible only when it looks to God for inspiration and remains fixed on bringing each person to encounter Christ; something "more relevant than ever in the work of the new evangelization."

Pope Benedict praised both recipients for their "personality", the character of their work, their precious service to teaching, and their active work in the Church, as a lay married man and as a Jesuit.

The Supreme Pontiff stated that both men were selected because of their engagement in two decisive matters for the Church: "Ecumenism and the encounter with other religions," that is, relations with the Orthodox Church as well as with Judaism and Islam. While lamenting not having been able to listen to their experience, the Holy Father expressed gratitude for their having communicated the fruits of their research through their publications.

In describing their accomplishments as university professors, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the profound meaning of academic work. Professorship must be "exemplary in the transmission of a knowledge that unites science and wisdom, scientific rigor and a passion for man,” he said. This profound and necessary connection between intellectual rigor and a lived experience of God is proper to those who "look steadily to God and from this source, draw true humanity to help those whom the Lord places along our path to understand that Christ is the way to life." They must make God “believable to the man of today,” he continued while specifying the connection to the new evangelization.

It is a calling to work in the Lord’s vineyard, the Pope said, so that “the men and women of our time may discover and rediscover the true ‘art of living’.”

The award is sponsored by the “Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation”, which was founded in 2010 to "promote the publication, distribution and study of the writings of former university professor Joseph Ratzinger." Financed through the publication and sale of Pope Benedict’s works, the foundation offers doctoral grants as well as organizing academic conferences.