Pope Confers First 'Ratzinger Prize' Awards

Benedict XVI discusses how faith and reason lead to love of God in speech for 'the Nobel Prize for Theology.'

(photo: Wikipedia)

VATICAN CITY (EWTN News/CNA) — Pope Benedict said on June 30 that although science has led to incredible advances in the modern age, it falls short in completely revealing the personhood of God. 

Although empirical reason “has led to great achievements, and no one would seriously wish to deny that it is just and necessary as a way to understand nature and the laws of nature,” the Pope said, “there is a limit to such a use of reason.”

“God is not an object of human experimentation. He is subject and shows himself only in the relationship between one person and another.”

Pope Benedict made his remarks at a June 30 Vatican award ceremony for the three winners of the first ever Ratzinger Prize.

The prize was established last year to promote theological study on the writings of Pope Benedict XVI and has been referred to as “the Nobel Prize for Theology.”

The first two winners were Manlio Simonetti, an 85-year-old expert on the Church Fathers who used to teach at Rome’s La Sapienza University, and Olegario González de Cardedal, a 77-year-old specialist in dogmatic theology at the Pontifical University of Salamanca, Spain.

The youngest of the three recipients was Maximilian Heim, a 50-year-old Cistercian who teaches dogmatic and fundamental theology at the University of Heiligenkreuz in Austria.

In his remarks at the ceremony, Pope Benedict referred to 11th-century theologian and doctor of the Church St. Bonaventure, who wrote about the dangers of reason becoming “despotism” when “it becomes supreme judge of all things.”

“This use of reason is certainly impossible in the context of the faith,” because it seeks to submit God “to a process of experimental trial,” the Pope said.

He added that, in “this context, St. Bonaventure refers to another use of reason: in the ‘personal’ sphere, in the great questions raised by the fact of being human.”

In this arena, Pope Benedict said that love becomes the driving force because it wants “a better knowledge of the beloved. Love, true love, does not make us blind but causes us to see, and part of this is thirst for knowledge, thirst for a true knowledge of the other.”

“For this reason, the Fathers of the Church found the precursors of Christianity (apart from the world of the revelation to Israel) not in the area of customary religion ... but in the ‘philosophers,’ in people who thirsted for truth and who were thus on the path towards God,” he said.

However, the Pope said that when this use of reason “is lacking, then the great questions of humanity fall outside the field of reason and are abandoned to irrationality.

“This is why authentic theology is so important. Correct faith conducts reason to open itself to the divine so that, guided by love for truth, it can gain a closer knowledge of God.”