Meeting of the student groups in Castelgandolfo 2009
For the student meeting with Pope Benedict in Castelgandolfo in 2009, the theme of "mission" - the first evangelization of peoples - was chosen with great unanimity. Could we contribute to a new missionary awakening in the face of the missionary crisis? Speakers at the theological day with Pope Benedict (August 29) were professors emeritus Peter Beyerhaus and Horst Bürkle. Beyerhaus, a representative of the Evangelical trend in German Lutheranism, gave his presentation the title "The Mission ad Gentes - its justification and shape today". Bürkle, a Lutheran professor who converted to the Catholic Church, characterized his topic as follows: "The church and its mission in dialogue with people in changed religions and cultures." Unfortunately, the time for the theological discourse with Pope Benedict was shorter this year than last year.
Professor Beyerhaus diagnosed the missionary crisis as the fundamental crisis of all Christianity, but at the same time pointed to a new dawn in missions. Above all, he presented an independent trinitarian salvation-historical view for the justification of the mission. Mission is a Missio Dei: it is based on the sending of the Son of God and the Holy Spirit into the world. Time did not allow Prof. Beyerhaus to present today's historical challenge to world missions.
Professor Bürkle was also only able to present an excerpt of his presentation. So he could not go into the challenges that universalistic interpretations of foreign religions mean for Christianity. He went into the problem of inculturation in Africa probably because of the soon to be held second African synod and convincingly explained that movements that alienate Christianity or only include individual Christian elements in their traditional communities can only be pushed back if the church prepares the way for an authentic inculturation.
On Sunday morning the Holy Father celebrated Holy Mass with the Circle of Students and the New Circle of Students in the Centro Mariapoli in Castelgandolfo, preaching the homily. During breakfast together, Cardinal Schönborn addressed a word of thanks to Pope Benedict. After that, the circle of students of the Holy Father was able to present him with a comprehensive bibliography of his scientific work. The book was presented to Dr. Vinzenz Pfnür - meritorious editor -, P. Dr. Stephan Horn - spokesman of the student group as the editor of the work - and the publisher Dr. Dirk Hermann Voss. Finally, the Angelus prayer in the papal residence reunited the Holy Father with his circle of disciples and the new circle of disciples.
On Sunday afternoon, the student group met with the new student group – now of course without Pope Benedict – for an extensive dialogue. It was based on the presentation of a student of Pope Benedict, Abbé Dr. Barthélemy Adoukonou, Secretary of the West African Bishops' Conferences. Adoukonou presented the Mission of the Church as Family of God in West Africa, entitled "The Church in Africa and the Resumption of the Mission since Vatican II."
The lecture and two other reports from India (by P. Dr. Alex Thannippara, member of the student group) and Tanzania (by Dr. Achim Buckenmaier, member of the new student group) led to a lively and fruitful exchange of ideas.
Addendum: The Protestant theologian Werner Neuer took the explanations of Prof. Beyerhaus as an opportunity to appreciate the ecumenical initiatives of Pope Benedict. Beginning with his work as a professor in Freising up to this year's student meeting in Castelgandolfo.
Appeared in Diakrisis 30 (2009/4) 238-242
Fr Stephan Otto Horn
Photos: Michael Hofmann
New circle of students
At the invitation of the student group of Joseph Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI and the Holy Father himself, the New Student Group Joseph Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI, the group of young theologians who deal scientifically with the theology of Joseph Ratzinger, came from 29.-31. August 2009 together in Castel Gandolfo. After the first encounter last year and the first national conveniat of the new student group from 24.-26. April 2009 in Fulda, this was the third joint meeting.
During a joint service early on Sunday morning, the subsequent breakfast with the group of students and His Holiness, and the personal reception following the midday Angelus prayer, the young theologians had the deeply impressive and enriching opportunity of meeting the Holy Father in person. This was possible as part of this year's meeting of the student group on the topic "Mission".
After the journey and lunch together with the school group, the new school group met on Saturday to welcome three new members to its ranks. At this first working session, in which organizational matters were first clarified, the theologians then dealt with the topic of "mission". The group deliberately chose this topic, which the group of students and Pope Benedict were also dealing with these days. From the compiled and previously edited reader, the individual members each had to present a text by Ratzinger on the topic of the mission and put it up for discussion. Together with the Pope's circle of students, whom the New Circle of Students would like to take this opportunity to thank for the invitation and for bringing them together in this round, the professional and personal discussions could be continued in the evening. Sunday was dedicated to the encounter with the Holy Father. In the afternoon there was a working meeting with this year's speakers at the non-public meeting of the Pope and the group of students, the Protestant missiologist and ecumenical expert Prof. Peter Beyerhaus from Tübingen and the retired Protestant Munich professor of theology Heinz Bürkle, who converted to the Catholic Church. Both also made their theses accessible to the new student group, which was framed by the joint discussion between the two student groups. Together with some representatives of the student group, they presented to the young theologians their thoughts on the topic "Mission among the peoples: its justification and its form today", which they had presented at the meeting with the Holy Father on Saturday.
Afterwards, the student group and the new student group met in a large group to continue talking about the topic of the mission and to exchange views in particular on the situation in Africa and India. An eventful and impressive day closed for everyone with a social get-together.
Before leaving, the new student group gathered on Monday for a final meeting of its own. Looking back, each of the members expressed their gratitude and reported on their own experiences of the past few days. The outlook finally led to the next national conference of the new student group, which took place from 16-18. April 2010 will take place in Graz. At the meeting, members will address the theme of ecclesiology. The main speaker is the fundamental theologian Prof. Dr. Manfred Heim OCist, Heiligenkreuz Abbey.
Photos and text: Manuel Wluka