CNS PHOTO | L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO
Pope Benidict meets with his former doctoral studentsd during the Ratzinger Schulerkreis (Ratzinger Student Circle) in Castel Gandolfo.
The search for truth is the vocation of a theologian and the key to overcoming divisions within Christianity, Pope Benedict told a group of his former doctoral students.
The pope celebrated Mass with his former students Sept. 2 at the Focolare Centre in Castel Gandolfo as part of the annual meeting of the Ratzinger Schulerkreis (Ratzinger Student Circle), a group that has met since 1978 to discuss topics in theology and the life of the Church.
Rather than claiming truth as a possession, Christians must allow themselves to be led and guided by the truth. Then others will see how beautiful and beneficial it is and begin seeking the truth themselves, the pope said in the homily.
Irish Divine Word Father Vincent Twomey, a moral theologian and founding member of the schulerkreis, said the pope emphasized that "if theology doesn't reach out for the truth, then it just becomes an intellectual exercise; but if you are searching for the truth, then it is transformative.
"You're not the same when you discover something, when the truth hits you between the eyes."
In the homily, like in much of the pope's writings, Twomey said, he also spoke about joy, which is related to truth.
"Once you know the truth about anything, you're liberated. With the lie, the untruth and darkness, they get you down, they also divide people, they cause suspicion and they don't cause unity."
The topic of this year's meeting was Catholic relations with Anglicans and with Lutherans, the priest said.
With many of the pope's former students coming from Germany and countries with large Lutheran populations and with the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation coming up in 2017, the group spent much of its time talking about Catholic-Lutheran relations.
Salvatorian Father Stephen Horn, who serves as president of the group, told Vatican Radio the idea of a mutual "mea culpa" – a recognition of faults on both sides – was discussed during the meeting.
Twomey said the annual weekend get-together is a chance to study, pray, renew friendships and encourage each other.
The pope "loves being with people," discussing weighty issues, but also sharing "stories and jokes," he said.
"Ratzinger's students were always known for their diversity of opinion. He never created a school of thought. That's what makes it so stimulating – people from different backgrounds studying different things," but united with respect for the pope's theology.