Old Testament expert and philosopher from Germany win 2021 Ratzinger Prize

Hannah Brockhaus   By Hannah Brockhaus for CNA

Ratzinger Prize winners Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger, left, and Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz. / Bistum Münster.

Vatican City, Oct 1, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

A philosopher and an Old Testament theologian from Germany have been named the winners of the 2021 edition of the Ratzinger Prize.

The Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation announced Friday that the annual award will go to Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz and Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger.

Pope Francis will present the award to the two recipients in a ceremony at the Vatican on Nov. 13.

The Ratzinger Prize was launched 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.

Gerl-Falkovitz, 76, is a specialist on the German philosopher Edith Stein — also known by her religious name, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross — and the prominent intellectual Servant of God Romano Guardini. She has also edited books of the complete works of both 20th-century Catholic figures.

She received her doctorate in philosophy in 1971 and was a professor of philosophy of religions and comparative religious sciences at the University of Dresden from 1993 to 2011.

Gerl-Falkovitz now leads the European Institute of Philosophy and Religion at the Pope Benedict XVI Philosophical-Theological University in Austria. In recent years she has been publicly critical of “gender theory,” which she said instrumentalizes the body.

Schwienhorst-Schönberger, 64, studied theology and Holy Scripture in Münster, Germany, and Jerusalem, Israel, and is considered one of the foremost experts on the Sapiential books in the Bible, especially the Song of Songs.

He taught exegesis of the Old Testament and Hebrew language at the University of Passau in Germany from 1993 to 2007, and is now a professor of the Old Testament at the University of Vienna.

Last year’s Ratzinger prize winners were Australian professor Tracey Rowland and French philosopher Jean-Luc Marion, who will also receive the award on Nov. 13, after the prize ceremony for the 2020 edition was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Candidates for the prize are chosen by the scientific committee of the Ratzinger Foundation and presented to the pope, who approves the winners.

The scientific committee members are appointed by the pope, and are currently the cardinals Angelo Amato, Kurt Koch, Luis Ladaria, and Gianfranco Ravasi, as well as Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg, who is president of the German Pope Benedict XVI Institute.

The Ratzinger Foundation also awards the “Expanding Reason” prize, now in its fifth edition, and the “Ratio et Spes” prize, now in its second year.

“Both awards aim at promoting dialogue between different scientific disciplines and philosophy and theology,” the foundation said on Oct. 1.


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