WHERE DO YOU COME FROM?
Symposium in Tanzania 2014,
Chair in the Theology of the People of God at Lateran University
in collaboration with Jordan University College Morogoro.
Where do you come from? On the Jesus trilogy by Pope Benedict XVI.
Symposium in Africa on Joseph Ratzinger's Jesus books meets with strong response
With almost 500 permanent participants, the symposium "Where are you from? - Person and message in the Jesus books of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI." a surprising and gratifying echo. From March 10th to 12th, these study days took place in Tanzania on the campus of the Salvatorian college Jordan University College for Philosophy and Theology in Morogoro, about 200 km west of Dar es Salaam.
The lecturers included two students of Joseph Ratzinger, Prof. P. Stephan Horn SDS and Prof. P. Vincent Twomey SVD. Other speakers were P. Dr. Amadasu Idahosa from Nigeria, Prof. Michael Maier from the Pontifical Gregorian University / Rome and Prof. Achim Buckenmaier from the Pontifical Lateran University / Rome. The event was organized by the Department of Theology of the People of God at Lateran University in collaboration with Jordan University College Morogoro. The Fondazione Vaticana Joseph Ratzinger and the Joseph Ratzinger Pope Benedict XVI Foundation of the student group generously supported the symposium.
The lectures on the days, which were held in English and partly in Kiswahili, attempted to make Joseph Ratzinger's Jesus books accessible to people from a different culture. They were based on the basic conviction that the author Joseph Ratzinger, above all on the basis of the testimonies and theology of the Old and New Testament, allows the message of Jesus to stand out so clearly that a joint study and above all a joint Approaching the person of Jesus is possible.
The lecturers therefore focused on key themes of the trilogy such as the Sermon on the Mount, the Eucharist, the high priestly prayer or even hermeneutic questions such as the unity of scripture, Jesus as Torà in person or the language of the books. One lecture was dedicated to the idea of the church as "God's family" - a theme of the 1994 Africa Synod. The presentations were followed by extensive discussion rounds with the smaller groups, together with the speakers. A panel discussion, in which both Ratzinger students P. Horn and P. Twomey reported on their personal experiences with Professor Joseph Ratzinger, enriched the scientific discourse. The continuous presence of five Catholic bishops from Tanzania and one Anglican bishop, who turned out to be students, was pleasing, as was the active cooperation with some professors from the university in Morogoro in terms of content and organization.
Among the participants from all over Tanzania were students from Jordan University, catechists and interested lay people, as well as many multipliers, professors of theology, priests and nuns who are involved in the training of young theologians and the coming generation of religious. The spacious campus of the Jordan University College enabled discussions and contacts between theologians who are driven by similar concerns on the sidelines of the lectures.
The Church lives in Tanzania, in a country that has doubled its population in the last twenty years. This young face also shapes Christianity there. With a new generation, many questions of the globalized world have already arrived in Africa. The modern means of communication made the successful cooperation between the various institutions possible, but, as everywhere else, they also raise new questions. Theological questions such as exegesis and scriptural interpretation, or the problems of inculturation and the understanding of freedom were present without dominating or blocking access to the message of Joseph Ratzinger's trilogy. The books and their portrayal of the figure of Jesus were received with astonishing curiosity; they were discovered as an excellent basis for finding answers to many current questions.
The greeting that Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. wrote to the participants of the symposium. In it he once again made clear the purpose of his Jesus books and promised the symposium his prayers and support.
The symposium, like the similar event in September 2013 in Benin, was seen primarily as an encouraging start on the road to a theology that bridges the origin of biblical faith and its contemporary form in Africa.
Prof. Dr. Achim Buckenmaier
Photos: Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI Foundation