Rome, Italy, Mar 2, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The theological legacy of Benedict XVI continues, four years after his pontificate came to an end. A group of graduate students has gathered around the Ratzinger Foundation to further their studies and discussions on the thought of the former Pope, cardinal, and theology professor.  

Professor Pierluca Azzaro, a collaborator of the Ratzinger Foundation who translated Ratzinger’s complete works into Italian, told CNA these students reflect “the increasing interest toward Joseph Ratzinger’s theology.”

In one gathering, the students heard Father Stephan Horn, the coordinator of the Ratzinger Schuelerkreis, the circle of Joseph Ratzinger’s former students. Azzaro summed up Fr. Horn’s remarks: “Joseph Ratzinger never wanted to assert himself and his ideas. He rather wanted to open people’s gaze to the Church.” The priest stressed Benedict XVI’s own identity as a priest and his care for the communication of the faith.

Besides the gathering with Fr. Horn, the students have held an introductory meeting and have met with Father Federico Lombardi, president of the Ratzinger Foundation and former Vatican spokesperson. Azzaro said that he first met the students at the Ratzinger Library, located in the heart of the Vatican, at the Campo Santo Teutonico.  

The Ratzinger Foundation inaugurated the library in November 2015. Students or people interested in Joseph Ratzinger’s work can access to the library for their studies. Two days per week, Azzaro stays in the library and helps students in their research.  

The group of students is composed mostly of doctoral students or of those seeking a post-graduation diploma from the universities of Rome. As he came to know the students through their common interests, Azzaro got the idea to involve them in Ratzinger Foundation activities.

Professor Azzaro said that the spirit of their meetings is taken from German universities. Every two months, a professor gathers his doctoral students in a conversation during which every student has the chance to explain his or her work. The professor coordinates the discussion.

The group of students includes 11 doctoral students, two researchers and five students working on their graduation theses. The group is composed of three Italians, two students from India, and one student each from Albania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Mexico, Croatia, and Vietnam. Their theses deal with a variety of subjects: systematic theology, moral theology, and even sacred music and Joseph Ratzinger.  

The supervisor for two of these theses is James Corkery, an Irish professor well known for his studies on Benedict XVI and liberation theology. He will give a lecture to the students in May. The former Pope’s work continues to be published in new forms. Azzaro noted that Benedict XVI’s book “Teaching and Learning the Love of God” has now been printed in a second edition in every language since it was published in mid-2016 for the 65th anniversary of Benedict’s ordination. The book collects his homilies on the priesthood.

The Ratzinger Foundation itself was launched in December 2007 on the initiative of some of Ratzinger’s former students. The foundation aims to promote theology “in the spirit of Joseph Ratzinger.” It funds scholarships for poor students around the world. Since 2010, the foundation has awarded its Ratzinger Prize to noted theologians. Some compare the honor to the Nobel Prize of Theology.