“Where are you from?” – Symposium in Tanzania/Africa (2014)

Person and message of the Jesus books of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI

Symposium on the Jesus books of Joseph Ratzinger in Morogoro, Tanzania, together with the foundation of the circle of students of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI, the Jordan University College/Salvatorian Institute of Philosophy & Theology and sponsorship from the Fondazione Vaticana Joseph Ratzinger; March 10-12, 2014.

Welcoming address from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to the participants of the study days in Tanzania

Benedictus XVI Papa emeritus,
Vatican City, Dec. 23, 2013
Welcoming address to the symposium in Morogoro/Tansania (March 2014).

Dear friends!

I heard from Professor Buckenmaier that you are going to conduct a symposium in March 2014 trying to understand better the person and message of Jesus of Nazareth based on my three Jesus books. Jesus Christ is the center of our belief, in that he is the encounter with Him and, therefore, with the living God. The fact that nowadays his form becomes more and more inaccessible and displaced due to numerous discussions and opinions, is a worry for the Church that is constantly on our minds. Coming from this worry, I wrote my books trying to make his form visible again. I tried to incorporate everything from the current theology which offers possibilities of deeper closeness to Jesus but, nevertheless, made an effort to overcome the motifs that stand in our way and keep us from getting close to him.

I hope that your study days are going to contribute to encounter the Lord anew and, thus, contribute to proclaiming his Gospel with new strength and guiding people to the waters of life that he opened up for us.

Benedictus XVI

About the event

With almost 500 permanent participants, the symposium “Woher bist du? (Where are you from?) – Person and message of the Jesus books of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI” evoked an impressive and wonderful response. The study days took place from March 10-12 on the campus of the Salvatorian Jordan University College for philosophy and theology in Morogoro, about 200 km from Dar es Salaam.

Two of the lecturers were students of Joseph Ratzinger, Prof. P. Stephan Horn SDS and Prof. P. Vincent Twomey SVD. Other speakers were P. Dr. Amadasu Idahosa from Nigeria, Prof. Michael Maier from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and Prof. Achim Buckenmaier from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.

The event was organized by the Chair for the Theology of the People of God at the Lateran University in collaboration with the Jordan University College Morogoro. The Fondazione Vaticana Joseph Ratzinger and the foundation of the circle of students of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI generously sponsored the symposium.

The lectures in English and partly in Kiswahili were aiming at making the Jesus books of Joseph Ratzinger amenable to people from other cultural backgrounds. They shared the core belief that the author Joseph Ratzinger made the message of Jesus so pronounced across all cultural differences and on the basis of the testimonies and theology of the Old and New Testament that he makes possible having studies together of and a shared approach to the person of Jesus.

Thus, the lecturers focused on some key issues of the trilogy such as the Sermon on the Mount, the Eucharist, the high priestly prayer or hermeneutic issues such as the unity of the Scripture, Jesus as Torà in person or the language of the books. One speech was dedicated to the concept of the Church as “family of God” – a topic at the African Synod in 1994. The lectures were followed by detailed discussion rounds in small groups with the lecturers. One discussion group, the one in which the two students of Ratzinger P. Horn and P. Twomey spoke about their personal experiences working with Prof. Joseph Ratzinger, made for an enriched academic discourse. The permanent presence of five Catholic bishops from Tanzania and one Anglican bishop was remarkably pleasing, as well as the active collaboration on contents and organizational aspects with several professors of the Morogoro University.

Among the participants from all over Tanzania were students from the Jordan University, Catechists and interested non-professionals, plus numerous multiplicators, professors of theology, priests and nuns working within the theological education of junior staff and the next generation of religious. The large campus of the Jordan University College allowed for discussions and contacts between theologians with similar concerns.

In Tanzania, the Church lives in a country that has doubled its population during the last twenty years. This young face coins Christianity there. With a new generation, a lot of issues of the globalized world have made their way to Africa. Modern communication methods allow for the successful collaboration of the various institutions but, however, raise new questions as well. Theological questions concerning Exegesis and the interpretation of Scripture or the problematic nature of Inculturation and the idea of freedom were present without being dominant or blocking access to the message of Joseph Ratzinger’s trilogy. The books and their depiction of the figure of Jesus Christ were perceived with astonishing curiosity; they were discovered to be a great basis for finding answers to numerous current questions.
With great gratitude, the welcoming address Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote to the participants of the symposium was received. He repeatedly emphasized the aim of his Jesus books and promised the symposium his prayer and his vicinity.

The symposium – like the similar event in Benin in September in 2013 – is mainly considered as an encouraging start on the way to a theology that builds a bridge between the origin of the Biblical faith and its present form in Africa.

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