By Mary DeTurris Poust
Pope Benedict XVI and about three dozen former students who did their doctoral dissertations under his direction when he was a professor will gather at Castel Gandolfo this week to discuss teachings of the Second Vatican Council and "the balance it tried to strike between reform and maintaining tradition," according to a story on the CNS blog.
Known as the “Ratzinger Schulerkreis” (Ratzinger Student Circle), the group has met annually since the late 1970s.
Two years ago I interviewed Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio, long-time friend and former student of Pope Benedict XVI, who talked about the annual meeting with great fondness and appreciation. He told me that the pope "believes very strongly" in keeping up close friendships with professors and former students.
"In fact, after he was made archbishop in 1977, he was no longer a professor and so his students, present and former, decided to form the Schulerkreis, the circle of students, an alumni group. There were about 50 of us all told. We spoke with him and we agreed that we would meet every year and we’d pick a theme and bring some speakers in and have Mass together and meals and recreation, and we did that. I wasn’t there every time, but we did that every year from around 1977-78 on. When he was elected pope in 2005, we were, of course, very excited, but we figured that’s the end of our Schulerkreis meetings. But he said no, he wanted to continue," Father Fessio told OSV.
He said the former students arrive on Thursday afternoon, have an internal meeting on Friday morning and then meet with the pope on Friday afternoon.
"Then Saturday morning we have Mass with him and another meeting and he has a beautiful lunch for us in the gardens at Castel Gandolfo. Then we have another meeting in the afternoon. Between lunch and the afternoon meeting, he will make time for those of his former students who have a specific issue they want to talk to him about personally or in a small group. On Sunday morning, we celebrate Mass with him again and after Mass he has his audience," he explained.
According to the CNS blog, Archbishop Kurt Koch, the former bishop of Basel, Switzerland, will be this year's speaker, focusing on “The Second Vatican Council Between Tradition and Innovation,” and another lecture on the council’s document on the liturgy and on the liturgical reforms it launched.
Read the CNS post HERE.