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Rome: Symposium in Augustianum 2019

The Ratzinger student groups held their annual meeting in Rome from September 27th to 29th.

The topic of the exchange was the priesthood in the theology of Joseph Ratzinger in the light of the present.

For the first time, part of the academic exchange took place in public:


 Symposium, on September 28, 2019



Welcome and introduction to the subject of Cardinal Kurt Koch (Rome)

Lecture: The Sacramental Office in the Church
          _cc781905-5cde-3194 -bb3b-136bad5cf58d_    Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz Menke (Bonn)



I. Statement: What is the common priesthood of all believers and
how does it differ from the ordained priesthood?

dr Maria Esther Gomez de Pedro (Santiago, Chile)

II. Statement: What is the ordained ministry for in the church?
Prof. Dr. Christoph Ohly (Trier)

III. Statement: Ordained priesthood and celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven?
Prof. Dr. Marianne Schlosser (Vienna)

IV. Statement: Which requirements must be fulfilled for the consecration?
Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller (Rome)

Closing with conference message
Cardinal Kurt Koch (Rome)


"I received from the Lord what I passed on to you"


Conference message for the public symposium

"Current Challenges of the Church Ordained Ministry"


  1. With the symposium on the topic "Current challenges of the church ordained ministry", the student group and the new student group of Joseph Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI. sought a larger public for the first time in many years. The decision to do so was based on the conviction that the time had come to open up the theological thinking of the Pope Emeritus to a wider audience in lectures and discussions in this way. We are happy and grateful that so many interested people have accepted this invitation and we express our hope that this will also be a good start for our future work.

  2. The letter from Pope Francis to the priests on the occasion of the 160th anniversary of the death of the Holy Curé of Ars - dated August 4, 2019 - has also encouraged us in the previously made decision to devote ourselves to the topic of the ecclesiastical ordained ministry. In a "time of suffering", overshadowed by the scandal of abuse, we face this challenge to search for "words and ways of hope" so that in the "times of ecclesial purification" we can rediscover the beauty and meaning of the ecclesial consecrated ministry can be recognized and accepted as a gift from the Lord to his church. Therefore, in our considerations we have placed a special emphasis on the sacramental priesthood and examined it in the light of the theology of Joseph Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI. tries to penetrate.

  3. The statements on the ordained priesthood are inextricably linked to the question of the nature of the church. The theology of Joseph Ratzinger is based on the Second Vatican Council and offers an authentic interpretation of the same. Pope John XXIII already had this. recognized when he noted with great approval the lecture prepared by Professor Ratzinger for Card. Frings on the subject "The Council and the Modern World of Thought". The last Council describes the Church as an "all-encompassing sacrament of salvation" (LG 48). As such, it is "a sign and a tool for the most intimate union with God and for the unity of all mankind" (LG 1). In the Church the risen Christ continues his work of salvation. In baptism conformed to Christ and to the Church as part of his body, the Christian receives a share in eternal life and is called to walk the path of holiness. It is to such a life and witness that all the baptized are called in the common priesthood. In the inner center of the church - this is clearly reflected in Joseph Ratzinger's theology - are those people who lead a holy life. This is the goal of being a Christian: conformation with Jesus Christ. Therefore we are grateful for all the testimonies of this holiness in marriage and family, in consecrated life and in all other forms that can also be found in the Church today.

  4. To understand the ordained ministry requires a sacramental perspective, as set out in the last Council. Christ the Lord instituted various ordained ministries in his Church "aimed at the good of the whole body" (LG 18). The vocation and existence of the priest are determined solely by the will of Jesus Christ (cf. Hebr 5:1ff) and are not derived from human considerations or ecclesiastical determinations. In him and with him the priest becomes "the herald of the word and the minister of joy".

  5. The conformation with Christ which the priest receives in the sacrament of Holy Orders differs not only in degree but in essence from the common priesthood (cf. LG 10). The priest acts "in the person of Christ, the head of the Church" (agere in persona Christi capitis). He is not a functionary; rather, in being with Christ, he carries out his mission, which comes from God. This is particularly evident in the holy authority to absolve sins, to transform the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, and to celebrate the other sacraments. The priest sacramentally represents Christ as the Good Shepherd (cf. Jn 10:10). According to the teaching of the Church, the decisive, because essential, reason for the sacramental representation of Christ in the priest lies in this personal relationship between Christ and Church, between priest and believer. In doing so, he does not represent Christ, as an ambassador would do, rather it is a matter of a real representation, with the succession to the cross being the decisive criterion.

  6. From this, fundamental statements can be derived with regard to the priestly lifestyle, which must be in harmony with the lifestyle of Christ. Only then does the "representation" of the priest become credible. The presence of Christ must not be limited to the sacramental act alone, but must be recognizable and effective in everyday life. Hence the obligations of obedience and celibacy as celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, which are human and spiritual expressions of the priest's sacramental conformation with Christ. Consequently, priestly ordination implies the personal following of Christ, while sin is the scandal that obscures credibility. Since the priest exists from Christ, participation in Jesus' way of life is also "appropriate" (PO 5) for those who act in his person. Therefore, according to the established tradition of the Latin Church, celibacy is an eloquent testimony of believing hope and generous love for Christ and his Church.

  7. In times of crisis and the painful cleansing of the church, it is not primarily structural reforms that bring healing and help, but the authentically lived testimony of faith. The Church will only renew itself if the common gaze is directed towards Jesus Christ as true man and true God. 

  8. The statement of St. Paul "I received from the Lord what I handed down to you" (cf. 1 Cor 11:23) reflects the character of the priest. The magnitude of this gift has been eclipsed by scandal and credibility shattered. A way out can only be found if it is and remains clear what the essence of the church's ordained ministry consists of and it is testified to by life. The theology of Joseph Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI. gives answers to this double challenge and shows a path that is linked to tradition and leads to that reform that directs life towards Christ and gives him credibility.

  9. We entrust the study and prayer of this session to the intercession and assistance of Mary, the Virgin and Mother of God, Mother of the Church. 

Rome, September 28, 2019

Student Circle and New Student Circle

Joseph Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI.

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