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Pope honors professor with Ratzinger Prize

Tori Roeck | Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Theology professor Fr. Brian Daley received the 2012 Ratzinger Prize in Theology, also known as the “Nobel Prize of Theology,” for his work in studying the early Church.

Pope Benedict XVI will officially present Daley with the honor Oct. 20 in Rome.

The annual Ratzinger Prize recognizes “distinguished scholarship in scripture, patristics and fundamental theology,” according to a University press release.

Daley said the award reflects the Pope’s personal theological interests.

“When the Pope was just Joseph Ratzinger and a professor of theology, he worked on contemporary theology, but was very strongly interested in the Bible, the early Church and the medieval Church,” Daley said. “So I think they try to honor those interests of his when they give out the prizes.”

The other recipient of this year’s award is Rémi Brague, a French Catholic philosopher who will visit campus next week.

Daley said he is excited for his friends in Rome to attend the award ceremony and to shake hands with the Pope, whom he had the opportunity to meet briefly at a theology conference in the 1970s.

“I see theology as a service to the Church, really, so it’s very moving for me to have some sort of recognition from the Church that commemorates our present Holy Father, who is one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century, and I look forward to meeting him,” Daley said.

Daley said the award came to him as a complete surprise, but he feels honored for the Pope to personally recognize his work.

“It’s simply a kind of vote of confidence from the Holy Father, who is a theologian, and who especially is interested in theology of the early Church and the Middle Ages,” Daley said.

Daley said he considers his work part of a greater whole.

“I see what I do as a theologian as very much part of the Church’s pastoral mission. … I don’t see a strong line between theology and preaching,” he said. “When I’m preaching at a liturgy, what I try to do is make the Word of God accessible to people and let it come alive.
“My teaching, too, I see as trying to move from faith to understanding, to help people get a deeper grasp on what the faith of the Church is.”

The Department of Theology at Notre Dame shares a similar perspective on its academic discipline, and Daley said the award reflects the quality of the department as a whole.

“My sense of what theology is widely shared in the department. It’s a department that really does see its role as providing the understanding for faith,” Daley said. “Most people see their role as being part of the believing community, and everyone in the department is a person of faith.”

Daley said he tries to be a minister of the Church through teaching, preaching and scholarship to the best of his abilities.

“I love the Church and I try to represent the wisdom of the Church in what I do,” he said.