Cardinal Parolin with Ratzinger Prize winners Francesc Torralba, left, and Pablo Blanco Sarto. Cardinal Parolin with Ratzinger Prize winners Francesc Torralba, left, and Pablo Blanco Sarto.   (VATICAN MEDIA Divisione Foto)

Cardinal Parolin: Benedict XVI’s legacy will bear fruit for the Church

As Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin presents this year’s Ratzinger Prizes to theologian Pablo Blanco Sarto and philosopher Francesc Torralba, he recalls the importance of Pope Benedict XVI's thought concerning the relationship between faith and reason.

By Michele Raviart

An attitude of “flying high with the two open wings of reason and faith, albeit always with humility, effort, and perseverance”: This is the legacy, “alive and set to bear fruit in the future journey of the Church,” that Benedict XVI leaves behind a little less than a year after his death.

Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin made the remarks during the presentation of the 2023 Ratzinger Prize, the first ceremony for the Prize since the death of its namesake. Cardinal Parolin described the former Pope as “a pastor and teacher of faith” and “a luminous and courageous example of dialogue.” Pope Benedict’s Magisterium, the Cardinal said, is “characterized by an awareness of the cultural and spiritual situation of the world,” and of the tensions between peoples and between man and creation.

Continuity with Francis

These are themes and issues to which Benedict XVI contributed with profound insight, subjects that have been powerfully developed in the subsequent Magisterium of Pope Francis – one can think of the influence of the encyclical Caritas in veritate on Laudato sí and Fratelli tuttiwhich demonstrates the strong continuity between the two pontiffs.

Cardinal Parolin noted that Benedict can also serve as a guide in dealing with the crisis of clerical sexual abuse, the gravity of which “he had already seen as cardinal prefect and with which he had to deal throughout his pontificate.” “He did so,” the Cardinal continued, “with intimate suffering, but with humble respect for the victims and for the truth, guiding the Church along the paths of listening, of justice and rigour, of conversion and prevention.” Benedict saw what was essential “with order and clarity,” Cardinal Parolin recalled, even during his final years of the “growing fragility of old age lived in prayer.”

The very act of renouncing the papacy was defined by Parolin as “an admirable synthesis of a lucid and reasonable vision of the situation, of responsibility in the exercise of government, and of humility before God and men.”

Blanco Sarto: I heard the music of the Mozart of theology

The winners of the 2023 Ratzinger Prize – awarded annually since 2011 by the Ratzinger Foundation to “scholars who have distinguished themselves for particular merits in publication and/or scientific research” – were Spaniards Pablo Blanco Sarto and Francesc Torralba Roselló.

In presenting the award to Blanco Sarto, a theologian at the University of Navarra, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, Prefect Emeritus of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, recalled his 2011 book, The Theology of Joseph Ratzinger, where “one glance is enough to get an idea of the breadth of Ratzinger’s thought: Beauty, the liturgy, the Church, the person, faith, love, ministry, Mary, Jesus Christ.”

“If [Ratzinger] was the Mozart of theology, I think I have heard this music,” said Professor Blanco Sarto, who has dedicated much of his studies to delving into the thought of the theologian Pope. “What struck me,” he said, “is the vital, existential and hermeneutic dimension of his thought,” along with his realism and “fully accessible language.”

Torralba Rosellò: expanded the concept of reason

Over the years, recalled Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Ratzinger Prize has broadened its dimension from theology to the arts, law, sociology, and philosophy, all areas addressed by the Pope Emeritus. The award to the philosopher Francesc Torralba Rosellò, professor at the Ramon Llull University in Barcelona, should be understood in this sense. Ratzinger has expanded the concept of modern reason, said the laureate, “adding the measure of the gift and adding gratuitousness.” Reason, for Benedict, cannot be reduced only to what is verifiable and subject to experimentation: all metaphysics would be excluded. Faith and reason are fundamental for building tomorrow.

Lombardi: he taught us to seek and find the truth

“Joseph Ratzinger never intended to build his own system of thought or to establish his own school, but he taught us to seek and find the truth with the strength of reason and the light of faith, always keeping reason ‘open’, in the dialogue between people, disciplines, and the great religious traditions,” said Father Federico Lombardi, president of the Ratzinger Foundation, during opening remarks.

“In the dramatic times in which we live,” Father Lombardi continued, “it is the very dignity of the person and the meaning of his life and his being in the world that are being put to the test in their fundamentals”; and in this sense Pope Benedict “is well aware of the possibilities and risks of the journey of humanity, as well as the mission of the Church for its salvation. He leads us to enter with humility and courage into the deepest level, to find and rediscover solid and indispensable common reference points.”

Morning prayer at Benedict XVI’s tomb and audience with Francis

Lombardi recalled the meetings that preceded the award ceremony. In the morning, those present at the ceremony gathered in prayer in the Vatican Grottoes, at the tomb of St Peter and the tomb of Benedict XVI. “Together we asked the Lord, that He reward him for his service, but also that his spiritual and cultural legacy continue to bear precious fruit for the Church, for us, and for the good of humanity,” Lombardi said.

“Indeed,” he continued, “we consider it is our duty to cultivate not only in cultural reflection, but also in spiritual communion and prayer, the sense of the living and inspiring presence of this great teacher and pastor of ours.” Later, the award-winners were received by Pope Francis.

On Wednesday, 29 November, the first meeting of the study project “The Legacy of Benedict XVI” took place at the Pontifical Gregorian University; it will conclude next spring in Indiana, in the United States, at the De Nicola Centre of the University of Notre Dame, which organized the event and now joins the network of universities collaborating with the Foundation.

Vatican News - English section contributed to this report.

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01 December 2023, 13:46