Vatican II on the agenda for meeting of pope and his former students

Source: FSSPX News

Every year since the beginning of the pontificate of Benedict XVI, forty or so or the pope’s former students meet again with their professor in his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo for a three-day private seminar.  This year (2010) the circle of Cardinal Ratzinger’s former students worked from the 27th to the 29th of August on the hermeneutic of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), a theme developed by Benedict XVI in his address to the Roman Curia dated December 22, 2005.

The pope had explained then that for a long time there has been an opposition between two contrary interpretations:  on the one hand “a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture”, which has benefited from “the sympathies of the mass media, and also [from] one trend of modern theology”, and on the other hand, the “hermeneutic of reform, of renewal in continuity”.  As Benedict XVI views it, the first has “caused confusion” and “risks ending in a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church”, while the second, “silently but more and more visibly, bore and is bearing fruit”.  According to him, the correct interpretation of the Council depends on the development of the dialogue between reason and faith “with great open-mindedness”.

Bishop Kurt Koch, the new president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was the guest of honor at that gathering, which he described as a “concrete [i.e. down-to-earth], lively and positive experience”.  Although most of the participants come from Germany or Austria, also present were an Irishman, an Italian, a Dutchman, an Indian and a Korean woman.  One of Cardinal Ratzinger’s former students, Bishop Hans-Jochen Jaschke, Auxiliary Bishop of Hamburg, was interviewed on Vatican Radio by Fr. Bernd Hagenkord, director of the German-language division:  “Even though today we still speak with the Holy Father in a friendly way, at a certain point he becomes our old professor again….  Our meetings always have a theme:  this year the theme was the Second Vatican Council and interpreting it along the lines of reform and not of discontinuity.  We heard the presentations on this question and we discussed them with him and among ourselves.  On Saturday the Holy Father directed the session;  he listened very attentively and intervened punctually….  For several years now we have made an effort to enlarge our Schülerkreis [circle of students];  we want to rejuvenate it.  But the meetings with the Pope are reserved to the old members.  We do not want the Schülerkreis to lose its original identity.”

The main presenter at the meeting, Bishop Kurt Koch, explained in [the Italian edition of] L’Osservatore romano dated September 1:  “Fidelity to Tradition, openness to the future:  that is the most accurate interpretation of Vatican II, which remains the Magna Charta of the Church for the third millennium.”  And summarizing the two reports that he presented on August 28:  “In the first I proposed a reflection on the manner of reading and interpreting the Second Vatican Council, noting the priority of a hermeneutic of reform.  This is a question that I took up again and developed in the second presentation, examining in greater depth the Constitution on the Liturgy in particular, Sacrosanctum Concilium, precisely to show concretely how to implement a hermeneutic of reform.”  The two presentations, Bishop Koch explained, “were followed by a very interesting debate lasting over an hour and full of important contributions.”  He said that they “were able to grasp the importance of the spiritual dimension of Christian life in all its aspects.  And from my point of view, that is true also in ecumenical dialogue, which is the field to which this can be applied most directly in my future work.”  It is precisely “the concrete aspect that made the discussion very useful for the work of each participant”.

Going into the details of his two presentations, Bishop Koch explained that the first, centered on “Vatican II between tradition and innovation”, was divided into seven points:  a history of the Council’s reception and non-reception;  the hermeneutic of reform in a fundamental continuity; the question of whether the Council broke with Tradition;  the return to the sources and aggiornamento;  criteria for a hermeneutic of reform (an integral interpretation of the conciliar documents, the unity of dogmatic theology and pastoral practice, no division between the spirit and the letter);  the breadth and fullness of Catholicism;  the heritage of the Council in current challenges;  the reform of the Church as a spiritual task.

As for his second presentation on “The post-conciliar reform of the liturgy between continuity and discontinuity”, Bishop Koch explained that he set out “from the assertion that the liturgy is the heart of the conciliar hermeneutic” and then went on to discuss eight points:  the phenomenology and the theology of the liturgy;  the liturgy in its organic development (with the principle of active participation of all the faithful in the liturgy and the principle of facilitating the intelligibility and simplicity of the rites);  highlights and shadows in the post-conciliar liturgy;  protecting the great heritage of the liturgy;  the necessary reform of the reform, founded on the primacy of Christology;  the unity of New Testament worship and New Testament liturgy;  liturgy and Christian religions;  the cosmic dimension of the liturgy;  and finally the revitalization of the Paschal mystery.

[The Italian edition of] L’Osservatore romano dated August 30 and 31, 2010, reports that during the “Ratzinger Schülerkreis” Benedict XVI insisted on the importance of spiritual depth in the liturgy and on the necessity of “a more in-depth liturgical formation”, emphasizing that in the liturgy it is necessary to take into account the spiritual dimension and not only the external aspects.  The gathering ended on Sunday, August 29, with a Mass celebrated by the pope.  The homily, focusing on humility, was given by one of Professor Ratzinger’s former students, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna.

(Sources : apic/imedia/radiovatican/L’Osservatore romano - DICI no. 221 dated September 18, 2010)