Pope Benedict XVI told a group of his former students that Christians should not be scared to uphold ethical truths despite the fear of being branded “intolerant.”
“Today, the concepts of truth and intolerance have almost fused together, so that to say that one has the truth becomes synonymous with intolerance. And we Christians do not dare to believe or to speak about the truth,” the Pope said in his homily during Sunday morning Mass at Castel Gandolfo.
The Sept. 2 liturgy at the papal summer residence marked the conclusion of this year’s Ratzinger Schülerkreis or Ratzinger Student Circle. Since 1977 the annual event has drawn together those who defended their doctoral theses with the present Pope during his years teaching theology at various universities in Germany.
According the Vatican Radio, Pope Benedict’s homily was based on an analysis of a passage in the Book of Deuteronomy that recalled how Israel received God’s law, which brought it authentic wisdom. The Pope said this wisdom was a gift to take joy in, rather than the result of some individual genius.
Similarly, he said, the Church is a “universal Israel” that must also take joy in God’s gift of Christ, the Law made flesh, without any sense of triumphalism but with gratitude for a gift we did not create. We must learn “to allow ourselves to be led by the truth,” he said, “then the truth will be able to shine through us anew, for the salvation of the world.”
Last year, for the first time ever, the Schülerkreis also included those who have written their doctrinal theses on texts by Joseph Ratzinger, now known as Pope Benedict XVI. With the addition of those students, the number of those participating in the three days of closed-door seminars increased to approximately 40.
This year the topic for group study and discussion was the Church’s ecumenical dialogue with Anglicanism and Lutheranism.
Schülerkreis member Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna recalled how Pope Benedict explained that “the most important thing is that we listen to each other” since as fellow Christians we cannot create unity, which “is a gift from God.” What can be done in ecumenism, added the Pope, is to “learn from each other how to follow Christ today.”
“That is beautiful,” said Cardinal Schönborn, “because it gave us such an input of hope for what were are doing with these dialogues that are often apparently without results – but if we meet each other in faith, then it is really a mutual enrichment in the faith in Christ.”
Pope Benedict’s 26-year academic career involved him teaching at universities in Bonn, Munster, Tubingen and Regensburg. He was appointed as Archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977.