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POPE-SCHULERKREIS Aug-20-2009 (320 words) xxxi

Pope's former students to meet for ecumenical discussion on mission

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI's former doctoral students will meet again in late August to discuss Christian mission from an ecumenical perspective, the Vatican press office said.

The Aug. 28-31 meeting will be held at the Focolare Movement's conference center in Castel Gandolfo, the town where the papal summer villa is located. Pope Benedict will celebrate Mass and have breakfast with the group the final day.

Each year the scholars choose a topic to discuss in depth and they invite theologians to make presentations at the closed-door meetings.

One of this year's speakers will be the Rev. Peter Beyerhaus, formerly a Lutheran minister and now retired professor of missiology and ecumenical theology at the University of Tubingen, Germany. The program calls for him to speak about missionary work, "its justification and its form today."

The other speaker will be Heinz Burkle, a Lutheran theologian who became Roman Catholic in the late 1980s and is a retired professor from Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich. He will present a paper on "the church and its mission in dialogue with men and with different religions and cultures."

The three-dozen students who did their doctoral dissertations in Germany under the direction of then-Father Joseph Ratzinger have met regularly since the late 1970s. In 2008 they launched the Joseph Ratzinger-Pope Benedict XVI Foundation to promote studies of his theology.

The 2008 meeting, known as the "Ratzinger Schulerkreis" (Ratzinger student circle), also had an ecumenical focus. Two Protestant professors from Germany were asked to offer their reflections on the historicity of the New Testament and on Christ's own understanding of his passion and death.

The topics last year coincided with the work Pope Benedict continues to do on the second volume of his book about Jesus. The first volume, "Jesus of Nazareth," was published in 2007, and covered Jesus' life from his baptism to his transfiguration; the second volume is to cover his passion, death and resurrection.


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