“Festschrift,” German for “festival-writing,” is a word academics use to describe a collection of writings celebrating the work of a prominent scholar on some memorable occasion. It is certainly a word well understood by the Bavarian theologian Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, and he seemed pleased to receive a festschrift from the University of Notre Dame, which John Cavadini, director of the Institute for Church Life, presented him December 7 in Rome.
The festschrift, Explorations in the Theology of Benedict XVIedited by Cavadini and just published by the University of Notre Dame Press, grew from a conference ICL sponsored in March to mark Pope Benedict’s 85th birthday. The conference brought to Notre Dame an international group of theologians and other scholars to explore and reflect upon some 60 years of Joseph Ratzinger’s theological scholarship and teaching, from his writings as a professor of theology through his papal encyclical letters.
Cavadini, in Rome for the annual meeting of the International Theological Commission, a Vatican advisory group to which Pope Benedict had appointed him three years ago, brought with him a special leather-bound edition of the book that had been signed by all its contributors, including several Notre Dame faculty members and Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
“I’d gone to Rome for the ITC meeting,” Cavadini says, “but I also wanted to find an opportunity to deliver our festschrift to the Holy Father, in the name of all the contributors, of the Notre Dame Press, and of the University. My mission was accomplished more splendidly and amply than I could have imagined, for I had the opportunity personally to be received by Pope Benedict twice! But the Friday audience was arranged specifically for the presentation of the festschrift.
“He received it warmly and seemed genuinely pleased and even touched when I showed him the leather-bound copy with the signatures of all the contributors and President John Jenkins. I also presented him with a copy of the trade version, with the beautiful icon of Our Lady of Vladimir on the dust jacket, so he could see what it looked like.”
The Notre Dame faculty contributors (and signatories) of the book are:
Lawrence S. Cunningham, emeritus Rev. John A. O’Brien Professor of Theology;
Gary Anderson, Hesburgh Professor of Catholic Theology;
Cyril O’Regan, Catherine F. Huisking Professor of Theology;
Robert M. Gimello, professor of theology and of East Asian languages and cultures;
Francesca Aran Murphy, professor of theology;
and Daniel Philpott, associate professor of political science and peace studies.
Other contributors include Rev. Edward T. Oakes, S.J., professor of systematic theology at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake and Mundelein Seminary; Simona Beretta, professor of international economics and policy and political science at Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan; and Peter Casarella, professor of Catholic Studies and director of the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology at DePaul University.