I cannot make this sort of thing up, and thankfully Vatican Radio has reported the story to back me up on this. This year marks the first awarding of the “Ratzinger Prize in Theology.” What makes this award weird is that it is granted by Pope Benedict XVI, who, of course, is also Joseph Ratzinger for whom the prize is named. Furthermore, it is a prize awarded to the theologian or theologians who have worked on the Pope’s own theology. “The prize was established last year to promote theological studies on the writings of the Pope, and to reward promising scholars,” reports Vatican Radio. While the citation seems to suggest that this is geared toward recognizing younger scholars who have studies the Pope’s work, the ages of the first three recipients are 50, 77 and 85 — hardly “promising scholars” and more like seasoned veterans.

While I laugh at the seeming silliness of an award given by the Pope, named for the Pope and awarded for work on the Pope’s thought, what really gets me is the line by Cardinal Ruini, who said, “he hoped they would someday be viewed as the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in Theology.”

All this said, if the Holy Father decided to give me this prize, I suppose I would likely change my view on the matter. I doubt that will happen any time soon. Here’s the full story from Vatican Radio.

Winners of first 3 Ratzinger Prizes in theology

The first three winners of the Ratzinger Prize were announced on Tuesday in the Vatican Press Office. The prize was established last year to promote theological studies on the writings of the Pope, and to reward promising scholars. The prizes will be given out by Pope Benedict on June 30th.

The Ratzinger Prize is a project of the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation, which was funded by Pope Benedict with the royalties he has received from his books.

The prizes and the conferences the foundation sponsors focus on helping the truth, meaning and beauty of Christianity in relation to today’s culture and society emerge.

On Tuesday, the first three winners of the Ratzinger Prize were announced.

Manlio Simonetti, the 85 year old expert on the Church Fathers, who is a retired professor from Rome’s “La Sapienza” University, as well as a noted lecturer at the Patristic Institute Augustinianum.

Olegario González de Cardedal, the 77 year old Professor of Dogmatic Theology at the Pontifical University of Salamanca-

Maximilian Heim, O.Cist., the 50 year old professor of of dogmatic and fundamental theology (ecclesiology) at the University of Heiligenkreuz, whose focus has been on the theology of Joseph Ratzinger.

During the presentation, the President of the Scientific Committee of the Foundation, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, said the committee decided to award the prizes to two well-established scholars, as well as one whom he called “relatively young, but very promising.”

He said this year’s awards covered the areas of patristics, and dogmatic and fundamental theology, but added he hoped future awards would be given in the area of Sacred Scripture. Last year, when the awards were being announced, Cardinal Ruini said he hoped they would someday be viewed as the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in Theology.

Photo: Pool

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