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POPE-SCHULERKREIS (CORRECTED) Sep-2-2008 (370 words) xxxi

'Schulerkreis' sets up foundation to promote study of pope's work

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- Scholars who wrote their doctoral dissertations under the direction of then-Father Joseph Ratzinger have set up a foundation to promote the study of their professor's work.

The 40 scholars put the finishing touches on the Joseph Ratzinger-Pope Benedict XVI Foundation during their annual meeting Aug. 29-Sept. 1 in Castel Gandolfo, said U.S. Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio.

Father Fessio, who studied under the future pope in Regensburg, Germany, said the foundation will collect video and audio testimonies from the pope's former students, sponsor conferences on his theological thought, offer scholarships and establish a documentation center.

In addition, for the first time, the scholars -- known as the "schulerkreis" (students' circle) -- met with 17 young theologians from different countries whose work focuses on the pope's writings.

While the young theologians were invited to the Mass Pope Benedict celebrated Aug. 31 with the "schulerkreis" and to the breakfast with the pope afterward, they did not participate in the formal seminar, which was held inside the papal summer villa.

Pope Benedict's book, "Jesus of Nazareth," published in 2007, and the pope's continuing work on a second volume covering the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus "led to the choice of the format and speakers" for the seminar, Father Fessio said. "But it was not like we were drafting chapters."

Two Lutheran theologians -- Martin Hengel and Peter Stuhlmacher, retired professors of New Testament studies from the Protestant theology faculty at the University of Tubingen in Germany -- delivered the main papers at the seminar.

Hengel spoke about "the historicity of the New Testament," Father Fessio said, looking at the question, "Does the New Testament give us a real, historical picture of Jesus?"

Stuhlmacher's topic was Jesus' own understanding of his passion and death.

"If Christ was not aware of the sacrificial nature of his death, then you cannot explain how Christ's sayings are intelligible," Father Fessio said.

Pope Benedict attended the Aug. 30-31 morning and afternoon sessions of the seminar, listening, asking questions and joining in the debate, the Jesuit said.

"The discussion was very lively -- not heated -- but energetic," he said.


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