The students, known as the Ratzinger Schulerkreis, are having their annual meeting at Castel Gandolfo through Sunday.
Some 40 individuals are taking part in the meeting, among them Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna; Auxiliary Bishop Hans-Jochen Jaschke of Hamburg; and Monsignor Barthelemy Adoukonou, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
The discussions are taking place, as usual, behind closed doors. L'Osservatore Romano reported today that the Pope will give a conference.
There will also be conferences from Hanna Barbara Geri-Falkowitz, a lay theologian who will focus on the difficulties and resistance the Christian proclamation meets today; and Otto Neubauer, an Austrian lay member of the Emmanuel Community, who will speak on the "importance of poverty" when it comes to approaching modern man.
The theme of the new evangelization is in line with the Oct. 15-16 meeting the Holy Father will have with Church representatives of the West who are leading the new evangelization, as well as the October synod on this topic.
Ratzinger's first meeting with his former pupils took place in March of 1977, when Pope Paul VI appointed him archbishop of Munich-Freising. The annual appointment was kept thereafter, though students were surprised in 2005 to receive a letter from the new Pope a few months after his election, to call them to Castel Gandolfo to continue the custom.
That year they reflected on Islam, in 2006 and 2007 on evolution and evolutionary theories, in 2008 on the historical Jesus and his passion, in 2009 on the mission and on dialogue with religions and cultures, and in 2010 on the appropriate interpretation of the Second Vatican Council.
A few years ago a new circle was added to the original group: people who were not Ratzinger's students but who have been formed by studying his theology. Among this group is Cistercian Father Maximilian Heim, one of the recipients of the new Ratzinger Prize.