Professor Ratzinger goes back to school. After Islam last year, Darwin topic this year
Evolution will be the focus of the upcoming seminar between the pope and his former students in Castel Gandolfo. Meanwhile, Jesuit scholar Christian W. Troll has updated his analysis of progressive Muslim thinkers
by Sandro Magister
ROMA, August 2, 2006 – This year’s Ratzinger-SchÃƒÂ¼lerkreis seminar will focus on “SchÃƒÂ¶pfung und Evolution”, creation and evolution. The private meeting is set for Saturday, September 2, and Sunday, September 3, at the Pontifical Villa in the pope’s summer residence of Castel Gandolfo (see photo).
The Ratzinger-SchÃƒÂ¼lerkreis, that is the ‘Ratzinger Students’ Circle’, brings together once a year the old theology professor, now pope Benedict XVI, and his former students to discuss a new topic every year.
The first such meeting was held when Joseph Ratzinger was still a professor in Regensburg. Once he became archbishop of Munich, his students asked him to continue and he accepted. When he moved to Rome to take up the post of prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith the annual event continued. Typically, meetings were held at a monastery over a weekend. When the 2004 meeting ended, participants left already knowing the following year’s subject: the concept of God in Islam.
When in the spring of 2005, cardinal Ratzinger became pope, his former students thought that their annual tradition would stop, but were proved wrong. Thanks to Benedict XVI, the annual meeting was held last year and so it will this year.
Next September 2, professor Peter Schuster, president of the Ãƒâ€“sterreichichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, the Austrian academy of sciences, and cardinal Christoph SchÃƒÂ¶nborn, archbishop of Vienna and theologian, will open the discussion on creation and evolution. Among the participants, there will also be Jesuit Paul Erbrich, professor of the philosophy of nature in Munich, and Robert Spaemann, professor of political philosophy and one of Germany’s foremost experts on modernity.
On July 7, 2005, “The New York Times” ran an article by cardinal SchÃƒÂ¶nborn on the same topic which was read around the world.
But the subject is not foreign to Benedict XVI either. As pontiff he touched upon it last April 6 when he addressed young people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for World Youth Day. “Science,” he said in answering a question, “presupposes the trustworthy, intelligent structure of matter, the ‘design’ of creation.”
In preparation of the coming seminar, the members of the Ratzinger-SchÃƒÂ¼lerkreis can also find insight in an article that appears in the latest issue of “La CiviltÃƒÂ Cattolica,” a Jesuit journal published in Rome under the control and with the authorization of the Vatican secretariat of state.
In his article “L’evoluzione dei viventi: il fatto e i meccanismi [The Evolution of Living Things: Facts and Mechanisms],” Jesuit Giuseppe De Rosa looks at the debate among scientists over Darwinism and neo-Darwinism. In his conclusion, he writes that “while most scientists accept natural selection and random genetic mutation as valid processes, others who also accept evolution deny that the mechanisms identified so far are sufficient to explain it.”