A Jesuit priest from Burkina Faso has made history as the first African to win the prestigious Ratzinger Prize, which honors the work and academic contribution of theologians and other Catholic intellectuals.

“I am very surprised to have been awarded this prize, and I am very grateful to the scientific committee for this honor of being at the forefront of Africa for this prize,” Fr. Paul Béré, SJ told Vatican News shortly after the announcement.

“I think this is an encouragement for all theological work done in Africa.”

African Catholic theology is “attentive to what the Christian community is living in our territory,” the priest added.

The president of the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation, Fr. Federico Lombardi, along with the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi announced the winners of the 2019 Ratzinger Prize earlier this week.

The honorees are chosen by Pope Francis, based upon the recommendations of a committee composed of five cardinals who are members of the Roman Curia.

The Ratzinger Prize was begun in 2011 to recognize scholars whose work demonstrates a meaningful contribution to theology in the spirit of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Bavarian theologian who became Benedict XVI.

Béré, who is a lecturer at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, explained that he received the award for his work on the figure of the prophet Joshua.

“As an African Biblical scholar, I worked on the figure of Joshua,” he said

The priest explained that the prophet Joshua, who was formed through his relationship with his predecessor Moses, is a source of inspiration for the Church in Africa, especially regarding the transmission of values from one generation to another.

“This is also an inspiration that can help the Church in Africa to work towards the transmission from one generation to another of the mission that we received from the Lord in the ecclesial and political spheres,” he said.

Beré, who is a member of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) spoke last month on the need for an “Africanness” within the Catholic approach to addressing regional problems.

“Africa can find a solution to all its problems within, what we (Africans) simply need is the slightest desire to share the solutions across the continent,” Beré told ACI Africa at the Nairobi tri-party conference on the status of the evangelization mission in Africa .

Béré will be awarded the Ratzinger Prize on Nov. 9, 2019 at the Vatican Apostolic Palace from Pope Francis. The philosopher Charles Taylor, a Canadian Catholic intellectual, will be awarded the Ratzinger prize on the same day.