VATICAN CITY — The Swiss archbishop chosen by Pope Benedict XVI to be the new head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity will be the featured speaker at a gathering with the pope and about three dozen of his former students.
The annual meeting of the “Ratzinger Schulerkreis” (Ratzinger student circle) begins tomorrow at Castel Gandolfo and will bring together about three dozen scholars who did their doctoral dissertations under the direction of the former Professor Father Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict. The “schulerkreis” has met regularly since the late 1970s and the practice continued even after the former professor became pope.
L’Osservatore Romano reported that discussions at this year’s meeting will focus on understanding the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and the balance it tried to strike between reform and maintaining tradition.
The Vatican newspaper said the “schulerkreis” presented Pope Benedict with a list of possible speakers and the pope chose Archbishop Kurt Koch, the former bishop of Basel, Switzerland. The archbishop is the new head of the Vatican’s ecumenism office. Archbishop Koch will give one lecture on “The Second Vatican Council Between Tradition and Innovation,” and another on the council’s document on the liturgy and on the liturgical reforms it launched.
Archbishop Koch’s talks will be followed by discussion among the participants, including the pope, the Vatican newspaper said. The pope will celebrate Mass for his former students Sunday morning and have breakfast with them. Then the group will participate in the pope’s recitation of the Angelus.
The pope’s annual meetings with his former students are held behind closed doors, although participants have begun organizing the publication of each session’s papers. They will present the pope with the book containing the 2008 presentations by two Protestant theologians from Germany who were asked to offer their reflections on the historicity of the New Testament and on Christ’s own understanding of his passion and death.