top of page


Meeting of the student groups in Castelgandolfo 2013

Question of God in the horizon of secularization













student circle

The 2013 meeting meant a deep turning point for Pope Benedict's circle of students. This time, after many years, he did not have his teacher in his midst during the theological discussions. The pope emeritus probably wanted to send a signal that he is serious about his decision to lead a contemplative life after resigning from office. Nevertheless, it may have been difficult for him not to be able to stay with us in Castelgandolfo, especially since the problem we were dealing with is very important to him: the question of God in the horizon of secularization. But that also applies because we were able to win an extremely competent and respected cultural philosopher for the presentations and discussions, namely Prof. em. dr Remi Brague (Paris, Munich).


But if Pope Benedict could not be in Castelgandolfo, he was not completely absent for us. Rather, he celebrated the Eucharist with us in the Vatican on Sunday, September 1st, preaching the sermon. Then he personally welcomed the more than 50 participants and gave everyone the pleasure of a little conversation. His mental freshness and his sympathy for our joys and sorrows as well as for the big questions of the time are unbroken.


Prof. Brague dealt primarily with secularization. On the one hand, he specified the many terms for the phenomenon and thus sharpened the view of the diverse facets of this trend. On the other hand, he traced its consequences, so that in the end the challenges of this apparition for the church appeared.


The meeting of the student circle and the new student circle means a deep cut, but also because both circles were able to celebrate the "theological day" together for the first time. So we look to the future with confidence. The next meetings are to take place again in Castelgandolfo and in the Vatican.

Fr Dr Stephen Horn

Photos: Board of Trustees, Tagung  - Speaker Prof. Dr. Remi Brague, group photos SK + NSK, SK, fair, encounter with Pope em. Benedict XVI














The New Student Circle 2013 in Castel Gandolfo

This year's student group meeting from August 30th to September 3rd, 2013 in Castelgandolfo undoubtedly marked a turning point: on the one hand it was the first meeting of the "old" and the "new" student group since Pope Benedict XVI's resignation. on February 28, 2013; and on the other hand it was the first student group meeting without Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI. himself. His wish, for the first time in 34 years, not to take part in the consultations, which have been taking place in Castel Gandolfo since 2005, fully corresponded to the intention he declared when he resigned from office, to be able to linger in prayer for the church and the world and to remain hidden from the world.

The subject that Pope Benedict XVI. with his former students, doctoral candidates and habilitation candidates last year for this year's conference, was the "God question in the horizon of secularization". The French philosopher and historian Professor Rémi Brague, who has been Professor of Medieval Philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris since 1991 and has also held the "Guardini Chair" for Philosophy of European Religions at the LMU Munich since 2002, was won as a top-class speaker will. The long with Joseph Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI. friend Brague was only awarded the "Premio Ratzinger" for theology in 2012.

In addition to the great anticipation of Professor Brague's treatment of this year's topic, the new student group was also very pleased that Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, took part in the conference again, whom Pope Benedict still in September of last year had put the young theologian at his side as a mentor. The promised participation of the Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, was also warmly welcomed.

As usual, Friday evening was used for an initial exchange and organizational matters. The planned next annual meeting in 2014 as well as possible publications and activities have already been thought about and discussed. Saturday was again all about scientific exchange. And here there was a premiere: For the first time, the student group and the new student group met together and were able to follow Rémi Brague's explanations on the subject of "secularization". In the first of two presentations, Professor Brague formulated "10 Steps to Secularization" with great clarity and a noticeable desire for witty provocation, using concepts and terms such as "disenchantment of the world", "separation of the secular and the religious", "modern times", "emancipation", "enlightenment", "modernization", "secularization", "secularity", "secularism" and "secularization" sharply distinguished from each other. In the second lecture he formulated the provocative thesis that secular thinking must lead to the destruction of culture and self. As you can imagine, there was a lively debate on this.

Finally, on Sunday, another novelty in the history of the student group meetings happened: both student groups left Castel Gandolfo and drove together to Rome – to the Vatican, to be precise. Because Benedict XVI. invited to celebrate the Sunday Holy Mass together. Cardinal Schönborn, Cardinal Koch, Bishop Adoukonou, Hamburg’s auxiliary bishop Hans-Jochen Jaschke and Benedict’s longtime private secretary, curial archbishop Georg Gänswein, concelebrated at the Eucharistic celebration in the chapel of the Vatican governorate. Following the Holy Mass, in which the Pope Emeritus held a profound sermon on Jesus' admonitions for humility and modesty in Luke's Gospel, Benedict XVI welcomed every single participant of the student group meeting personally and in a relaxed atmosphere. After saying goodbye to Pope em. Benedict and the return from Rome, the new student group met in large groups together with the student group and Professor Brague in Castel Gandolfo for a constructive and at times very personal discussion about their own experiences with secularisation.

As always, the good conversations and friendly relations between the two groups of students were rounded off by shared meals in the Centro Mariapoli throughout the weekend. The New Student Circle has vivid and grateful memories of this meeting and is already looking forward - God willing - to seeing you again in 2014.


Stephen Ahrens




Photos: Michael Hofmann


CG_2013_Vortrag Dr. Remi Brague_03.JPG
bottom of page