ROME, JUNE 25, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto recently presented eight keys for reading Joseph Ratzinger’s theological work.
The archbishop, a member of the International Theological Commission, presented his ideas at the closing the first course of Specialization in Religious Information, organized by the University of the Holy Cross.
The prelate began his address June 17 by presenting, as the first key, an analysis of the historical and cultural context in which the theological work matured of the man who today is Benedict XVI.
After 1968, when the “age of utopia” and its vision of an essentially “useless” God came to the fore, Ratzinger’s work began to develop its anti-ideological conviction, said Archbishop Forte, 56.
Moreover, after 1989, when the “age of disenchantment” and the idea of the “death” of God prevailed, Ratzinger’s challenge was to “propose horizons of meaning, joy and hope,” the Italian archbishop said.
During this period, Joseph Ratzinger elaborated the concept of “Deus caritas,” which shows that the topic of his first encyclical was “long in maturing,” observed Archbishop Forte.
The second key is the task Joseph Ratzinger assumed with his theology: “to give witness with the service of the intelligence to the Word amid the words of men,” that is, “a ‘diakonia’ [service] to truth in the house of truth,” namely, the Church.
In fact, “God is not found in solitude” but in a “community that remembers and narrates and which, at the same time, interprets the truth that has been transmitted to us,” said Archbishop Forte.
The third key is the meaning of believing. Quoting Ratzinger himself, in his “Introduction to Christianity,” Archbishop Forte said that to believe “means to give one’s assent to that sense that we are not capable of building ourselves, but only to receive it as a gift, so that it is enough to accept him and abandon ourselves to him.”
Illustrating the fourth key to the reading, the archbishop said that the God in whom one believes, can only be a personal god, God the Father, who is revealed in biblical history as the living God, that is, the God of Jesus Christ. An unknown God cannot be loved. Only a personal one can be loved, one who addresses us and who, at the same time, we can address.
In this context, the relationship between man and God must be characterized by the move from “dualism,” which has opposed the human and the divine, faith and reason, in many periods of the modern spirit, to “meeting” and correspondence.
According to the fifth key of Ratzinger’s thought, “the human and divine meet but are not confused in Jesus Christ,” noted the prelate. God is not the answer to man’s expectation, but is always superior; “he is the beyond who overtakes, disconcerts and troubles us.”
The sixth key is the vision of the Church as the place where God dwells. “The Church must always live in docility to the Spirit and must be ready to acknowledge resistances to the Spirit,” Archbishop Forte observed, indicating the importance of admitting faults of the past.
The seventh key, the vision of the beyond, eschatology, is a “dominant theme in Ratzinger’s thought” and affects first of all the identity of the Christian: “a prisoner of the future of God,” who must measure his decisions on the horizon of the infinite God, according to the archbishop.
In this connection, “the Christian lives in an anticipated and anticipating experience of the last things,” through faith and the sacraments, but is also “critical reserve” because at times the Christian goes against the current.
The last stage illustrated by Archbishop Forte was the image that summarizes this theological work — Mary — synthesis of ecclesiology: “a concrete and personal icon in which the coordinates of Christian thought are expressed.”
The archbishop concluded his address highlighting the differences between Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI. If Pope Karol Wojtyla was a personalist anthropologist, he said, then Pope Joseph Ratzinger is a theologian who is “almost a catechist,” bearer of the possibility of the meeting of different traditions and cultures.
The course of Specialization in Religious Information took place March 3-June 16. During the course, professors of several pontifical universities and athenaeums of Rome alternated in addressing topics relative to religious information, to offer some keys to its reading in order to understand the Catholic Church better.