Recipients of the 2020 and 2021 Ratzinger Prizes were able to visit the namesake of the award.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI received the recipients of the 2020 and 2021 Ratzinger Prizes in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery where he resides, on the afternoon of November 13.
A little earlier, Pope Francis had addressed a vibrant tribute to his predecessor during the presentation of the Ratzinger Prizes in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican.
The Pope Emeritus was visited by the winners: the philosopher Jean-Luc Marion and the Austalian theologian Tracey Rowland, laureates of the Ratzinger Prize 2020; as well as the Germans, philosopher Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz and theologian Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger, the two recognized this year for their work .
They were accompanied by Father Federico Lombardi, president of the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation. The personal secretary of the Pope Emeritus, Bishop Georg Gänswein, was also present.
A ‘Nobel in theology’
The foundation is a charitable organization that promotes “theology in the spirit of Joseph Ratzinger.” The prize is a sort of ‘Nobel Prize in Theology’ (as Camillo Ruini called it) in recognition of those who perform scholarly research relating to or expounding upon Ratzinger’s work.
“It was a very lively meeting, lasting a full hour […] during which each of the academics was able to present their work to Benedict XVI and converse with him,” details the foundation’s press release. “The audience ended with the recitation of the Ave Maria and a blessing given by the Pope Emeritus, who presented each of them with a medal and a rosary.”
At 94, the Pope Emeritus looks well. In the photos posted via the foundation’s Facebook page, he can be seen smiling, sitting in an armchair and surrounded by his guests.
Pope Francis’ tribute
In presenting the prizes, Pope Francis paid a beautiful tribute to his predecessor:
Among these teachers there is a theologian who was able to open and nourish his reflection and his cultural dialogue towards all these directions together, because faith and the Church live in our time and are friends of every search for truth. I speak of Joseph Ratzinger.
This Prize is rightly awarded in the name of my predecessor. It is therefore an opportunity for me, together with you, to address to him once again our affectionate, grateful and admiring thoughts.
A few months ago we gave thanks to the Lord together with him, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood; and we feel that he accompanies us in prayer, keeping his gaze constantly fixed towards the horizon of God. You only have to look at him to realise this. Today we thank him in particular because he has also been an example of passionate dedication to study, research, written and oral communication; and because he has always fully and harmoniously united his cultural research with his faith and his service to the Church.
Let us not forget that Benedict XVI continued to study and write until the end of his pontificate. About ten years ago, while fulfilling his governmental responsibilities, he was busy completing his trilogy on Jesus and thus leaving us a unique personal testimony of his constant search for the face of the Lord. It is the most important search of all, which he then continued to pursue in prayer. We feel inspired and encouraged by it, and we assure him of our remembrance to the Lord and our prayers.
As we know, the words of the Third Letter of John – “cooperatores veritatis” – are the motto he chose when he became Archbishop of Munich. They express the common thread of the different stages of his life, from his studies to his academic teaching, to his episcopal ministry, to his service for the Doctrine of the Faith – to which he was called by Saint John Paul II 40 years ago – up to his pontificate, characterised by a luminous magisterium and an unfailing love for the Truth. Cooperatores veritatis is therefore also the motto that stands out on the diploma given to the awardees, so that it may continue to inspire their commitment.
These are words that each one of us can and must draw inspiration from in our activities and in our lives, and I leave them with all of you, dear friends, as a wish, together with my blessing.