Pope Francis, Fr Federico Lombardi and Ratzinger Prize recipients  (Vatican Media)

By Francesca Merlo

Nov 15 2021

Pope Francis addresses past and current winners of the prestigious Ratzinger Prize, recalling that the award, given in Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s name, enriches an immense human and spiritual heritage to be shared.

Speaking on Saturday on the occasion of the presentation of the annual Ratzinger Prize, Pope Francis greeted all those present, and in particular the prize winners, offering them a warm welcome.

The Ratzinger Prize

The prestigious Ratzinger Prize is given to two scholars each year who stand out for their scientific research in the field of theology, regardless of their religious faith. Due to the pandemic, last year’s winners, Professors Jean-Luc Marion and Tracey Rowland were unable to celebrate, and so are celebrating along with this year’s winners, Professors Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz and Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger.

Pope Francis expressed his pleasure at seeing that numerous past winners were also present, stressing that the community of award-winners expands every year, “not only in number but also in the variety of countries represented”, which he added, are now fifteen. 

An immense spiritual heritage

The Pope noted that the fruits of research and art “do not ripen by chance and without effort”, and that therefore, “recognition goes at the same time to the prolonged and patient effort that they require to reach maturity.” Scripture speaks to us of God’s creation as ‘work’, said the Pope, and for this reason, we pay tribute “not only to the depth of thought and writings, or to the beauty of artistic works, but also to the work spent generously and passionately over many years to enrich the immense human and spiritual heritage to be shared”. 

Joseph Ratzinger

The Pope then went on to speak of Joseph Ratzinger, whom he described as one of the many teachers who “educate us to think in order to live our relationship with God and with others ever more profoundly, to direct human action with virtues and above all with love”. Benedict XVI, said the Pope, is a theologian who was “able to open and nourish his reflection and his cultural dialogue towards all these directions together, because faith and the Church live in our time and are friends of every search for truth”. 

With this prize being given in his name, continued the Pope, it is an opportunity for me to “address once again our affectionate, grateful and admiring thoughts to him”. The Pope recalled that just a few months ago they celebrated Benedict XVI’s 70th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. “We feel that he accompanies us in prayer, keeping his gaze constantly fixed on God’s horizon”.

“Let us not forget that Benedict XVI continued to study and write until the end of his pontificate”, continued the Pope. About ten years ago, while fulfilling his governmental responsibilities, he was busy completing his trilogy on Jesus “and thus leaving us a unique personal testimony of his constant search for the face of the Lord”. 

Cooperatores veritatis

Finally, Pope Francis referred to the words of the Third Letter of John: “cooperatores veritatis”, which are also the words chosen by Benedict XVI as his motto when he became Archbishop of Munich. “They express the common thread that runs through the different stages of his life”, said the Pope: “from his studies to his academic teaching, to his episcopal ministry, to his service for the Doctrine of the Faith – to which he was called by St John Paul II 40 years ago – to his pontificate, characterised by a luminous magisterium and an unfailing love for the Truth”. 

These are words, concluded the Pope, “by which each one of us can and must be inspired in our activities and in our lives, and I leave them with all of you, dear friends, as my wish and my blessing”. -Vatican News