Pope Benedict met with four recipients of the Ratzinger Prize at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican last Saturday.
The meeting lasted one hour and allowed each of the academics to discuss their work with the Pope–emeritus, according to a statement from the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation. Before parting ways, the group prayed a Hail Mary together.
Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz, a specialist on the German philosopher Edith Stein, and Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger, an Old Testament theologian from Germany, were presented with the 2021 Ratzinger Prize by Pope Francis in an award ceremony at the Vatican on November 13.
The 2020 Ratzinger Prize winners, Australian professor Tracey Rowland and French philosopher Jean-Luc Marion, were also present to receive the award due to the fact that the 2020 prize ceremony was cancelled because of the Covid pandemic.
At the awards ceremony in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis said that the conferral of the award was an opportunity to express “affectionate, grateful and admiring thoughts” for his predecessor for whom the award is named.
The Ratzinger Prize was launched in 2011 to recognise scholars whose work demonstrates a meaningful contribution to theology in the spirit of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who went on to become Benedict XVI.
“Today we thank him in particular because he has also been an example of passionate dedication to study, research, written and oral communication; and because he has always fully and harmoniously united his cultural research with his faith and his service to the Church,” the Pope said.
Candidates for the prize are chosen by the scientific committee of the Ratzinger Foundation and presented to the Pope, who approves the winners.
One of the winners, Ms Gerl-Falkovitz, 76, is a specialist on the German philosopher Edith Stein – also known by her religious name, St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross – and the prominent intellectual Servant of God Romano Guardini. She has also edited books of the complete works of both 20th-century Catholic figures.
She received her doctorate in philosophy in 1971 and was a professor of philosophy of religions and comparative religious sciences at the University of Dresden from 1993 to 2011.
Ms Gerl-Falkovitz now leads the European Institute of Philosophy and Religion at the Pope Benedict XVI Philosophical-Theological University in Austria. In recent years she has been publicly critical of “gender theory”, which she said instrumentalises the body.
The 94-year-old Pope emeritus is “full of zest for life,” according to his private secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein.