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The new evangelization at the meeting of the Pope's former students

· Together at Castel Gandolfo until Sunday ·

The topic of the new evangelization serves as a backdrop to the traditional summer seminar of Benedict XVI's former students -  the so-called “Ratzinger Schülerkreis” –  which began this morning, 25 August, in Castel Gandolfo.

About 40 people from various countries are taking part in the meeting at the Mariapoli Congress Centre that lasts until Sunday, 28 August. Participants include Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, Auxiliary Bishop Hans-Jochen of Hamburg, Mons. Barthélémy Adoukonou, lecturers, parish priests, men and women religious and lay people: all alumni of Prof. Joseph Ratzinger who defended their theses with him in the years when he was teaching in Germany.

This year there two speakers at the morning and afternoon sessions of Saturday, 27 August: respectively Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz, lecturer in the philosophy of religion at Dresden University, who will examine the topic: “ In Athen von Jerusalem sprechen. Gott rede in einer widerständingen  Welt [Speaking to Athens of Jerusalem. Words of God in a world that resists]; and Otto Neubauer, Director of the Academy for Evangelization of the Emmanuel Community in Vienna, who will speak on “Eine immer neue Evangelisation – wo di Armut zur Brücke zu den Menschen wird [An ever new evangelization – where poverty becomes a bridge to men and women]. Benedict XVI will be present at their meeting on Saturday and will give a brief introductory discourse.

As from Friday, 26 August, the participants will be joined by the members of the “new” Schülerkreis, the sodality founded four years ago that is made up of students who have written their theses on texts by Joseph Ratzinger and who will also take part in the Mass celebrated by the Pope on Sunday morning, 28 August, and in the Angelus. In the afternoon, at the end of the meeting, there will be a free discussion between the “old” and “new” students on the theme of this year's seminar. The meetings, which as usual are private, are organized by a Salvatorian religious, Fr Stephan Horn, President of the Joseph Ratzinger – Papst Benedict XVI – Stiftung, the foundation called after Pope Ratzinger and which is based in Munich. Approved on 21 December 2007 as a civil foundation, its aims include the preparation and organization of the annual meeting, promotion of the studies undertaken by Ratzinger when he was a lecturer, the dissemination of his theological teaching and spirituality, as well as the publication of Benedict XVI's books. These aims essentially coincide with those of the Vatican foundation of the same name that was set up on 1 March 2010.

Ratzinger first met with his doctoral students and candidates for lectureship in Bonn, Münster, Tubingen and Regensburg, subsequent to his appointment as Archbishop of Munich and Freising on 24 March 1977. Soon afterwards annual meetings were organized which Cardinal Ratzinger never failed to attend. This tradition was continued, even after his election to the papal throne. The event takes place every year on a specific theme which the Pontiff himself chooses from a short-list of three.

With a view to the Pope's meeting with the representatives of the ecclesial situations involved in the the new evangelization in the West – which will take place next 15 and 16 October in the Vatican, this year's choice is particularly significant, and especially with a view to the 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith”, scheduled to take place from 7 to 28 October 2012.

The theme of last year's meeting was the “Hermeneutics of the Second Vatican Council” on which Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity gave two discourses: the first on “The Second Vatican Council between Tradition and Innovation. The Hermeneutics of the Reform between the Hermeneutics of a Continuity Interrupted and a Non-Historical Continuity”; and the second on “Sacrosanctum Concilium and the Post-Conciliar Reform of the Liturgy”. Two years ago the Mission Ad Gentes was discussed, whereas the meeting three years ago focused on the issue of the correspondence of the Jesus described by the Gospels with the historicity of his figure and on the narrative of the Passion.

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