Ratzinger Prize to the theologians Dieter and Menke and to the Master Pärt. Pope Francis “They dedicated their life to the diakonia of the truth”

by Luca Caruso


Vatican City, 18th November 2017 – “The diakonia of the truth: the high mission to which the three men who receive the Ratzinger Prize dedicated their life, as Benedict XVI, who chose the words of the Third Letter of Saint John called “Cooperatores Vaeritatis”, “Collaborators of the truth” as his episcopal motto. It is the heart of the speech of Pope Francis, who gave the prestigious award this morning to the German Lutheran theologian Theodor Dieter, to the German Catholic priest and theologian Karl-Heinz Menke and to the Estonian musical composer Arvo Pärt, Orthodox Christian. The ceremony – the seventh edition – was held at the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican City.

Pope Francis turned his mind to his predecessor, the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and he invited the Foundation “to go on with its commitment and to foster the study and the theological and cultural research”.

The Pope was glad because the three men who received the Prize come from three different Christian confessions, among which there is the Lutheran. He also agreed with widening the horizons of the Prize to include arts, together with theology and sciences, because Benedict XVI often talked about beauty as a privileged way to reach God.

In his speech, father Federico Lombardi, president of the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation, explained that “the last has been a very intense year because the 90th birthday of the Pope Emeritus attracted a lot of people and many initiatives were born in order to enlighten his cultural and spiritual heritage. Among them there are: the publication of two important volumes of the Italian edition of the Opera Omnia with the support of the Vatican Publishing House; the Theological-cultural Symposium that will be held from 28th November to 1st December at the Catholic University of Costa Rica on the topic “Laudato si’ – La cura della ‘casa comune’, una conversione necessaria all’ecologia umana”. Then, with the support of the “Francisco de Vitoria” University of Madrid, following the idea of the “open reason”, research works and university courses regarding the dialogue among scientific disciplines and philosophy, morality and faith will be awarded.

“We are trying to foster a deep theology and culture that are close to the Church and to the history of our age. That is why it is our tradition to present You these men, who deserve to be awarded for their fruitful work”. Father Lombardi also mentioned and thanked professor Manlio Simonetti, who died in Rome in November 2nd.

Cardinal Kurt Kock, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and member of the Scientific Committee of the Foundation, referred on the profile of the award winners of the seventh edition. During the ceremony the Master Arvo Pärt played the song “Pater noster” with the piano that was owned by Benedict XVI. The solo voice was a singer from the Voci bianche choir of the Accademia Nazionale Santa Cecilia. The famous composer dedicated the song to the 60th anniversary of the priesthood of Benedict XVI, held in 2011. During the ceremony, the Choir of the “Sistine” Pontifical Musical Chapel, directed by the Master Massimo Palombella, played short musical pieces.

There are 16 people who received the Ratzinger Prize from 2011 to now. They come from 12 different countries.

Read the speech of Pope Francis

Read the greetings of fr. Federico Lombardi



theodor dieter

Born in 1951, he is a German Lutheran theologian, a research professor and the Director of the Institute for Ecumenical Research of Strasbourg. His doctoral work in Protestant theology was completed 1991 with a dissertation on “The Philosophical Theses of Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation and Their Proofs.”

From 1988 to 1994 he was as assistant to Professor Oswald Bayer at the Institute for Christian Social Teaching of the University of Tübingen, where he taught political and economic ethics.

He qualified in 1998 with a study on “The Young Luther and Aristotle.” His focus is on research into the theology of Martin Luther, especially its medieval background and present-day relevance.

Since 1997 he is the head of the Institute for Ecumenical Research of Strasbourg, where he started teaching in 1994. He often works in Lutheran-Roman Catholic ecumenic dialogue and he worked at the writing and approval of the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification” on 31st October 1999. Together with Professor Thönissen, Dieter is a leader of a working group of Protestant and Catholic theologians interpreting Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses of Wittenberg.

In 2012 he reported on Catholic-Lutheran dialogue during the meeting of the Ratzinger-Schülerkreis in Castel Gandolfo in the presence of Benedict XVI. In January 2017 he received a degree honoris causa from the Catholic Theological Faculty of the University of Erfurt.

Dieter is a pastor of the Landeskirche in Württemberg. He is married and he has got three children.


karl-heinz menke

Born in 1950, theologian and German Catholic priest, he is a full Professor of Dogmatics and Theological Propaedeutics at the Catholic Theological Faculty of the University of Bonn.

Between 1968 and 1978 he studied Philosophy, Theology and Old Philology in Münster and in Rome, where he was ordained priest on 10th October 1974. The following year he graduated at the Pontifical Gregorian University and in 1978 he attended a Ph.D. in Theology in the same university. The topic of his work was “Reason and revelation in Antonio Rosmini-Serbati”.

From 1987 to 1990 he worked as an Assistant of professor Gisbert Greshake at the Chair of Dogmatics, History of Dogmas and Ecumenical Theology of the University of Freiburg. He qualified for Dogmatics and History of Dogmas in 1990 in Freiburg. The topic of his work was “Vicarious representation (Stellvertretung). Key concept of Christian life and fundamental theological category”.

Since 1st October 1990 he is Professor of Dogmatics and Theological Propaedeutics at the University of Bonn. He is a member of several Commissions of the German Episcopal Conference; he is a member of the Science Academy of North Rhine-Westphalia. He also works at international research projects and he has got a lot of theological publications.

He is a deep expert of the thought of Joseph Ratzinger and he dedicated several studies to him and a monograph entitled Der Leitgedanke Joseph Ratzingers (Schöningh, Paderborn 2008). In September 2014 he was appointed Member of the International Theological Commission for five years by Pope Francis.


arvo part

Born in 1935 in Paide, Estonia, he is a music composer of sacred music and he is recognized all over the world.

When he started out, he used techniques such as dodecaphony and collage, in the Sixties his production shifted to Gregorian and ancient music. He then committed himself mainly to sacred music. He created his own style, based on old composing procedures in order to reach a new essentiality, where the voice has the main role. Referring to the sound of bells, he himself defines his style with the term “tintinnabuli”.

Per Alina, Tabula rasa, Fratres, Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten gave him international success at the end of the Seventies. He kept on composing mainly sacred music, such as Passio Domini nostri Jesu Christi secundum Joannem (1981-82), Magnificat (1989), Berliner Messe (1991), Litany: prayers of St. John Chrysostom (1994), Como anhela una cierva (Salm 42 e 43, 1998), Orient & Occident (for string orchestra, 2000), La Sindone (for orchestra and percussions, 2006).

The last composition is Symphony n. 4“Los Angeles” in 2008.

He was defined as “the most appreciated composer in the world” and it was said that “from the abyss of silence he has definitely changed the musical language of our age” (Fabrizio Basciano).

He received the Ph.D. honoris causa from the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, he took part to the Exhibition “Lo splendore della verità – La bellezza della carità”, in 2011 at the hall named after Paul VI for the 60th anniversary of priesthood of Benedict XVI. Especially for this occasion, he composed and played Padre Nostro, in the presence of the Pope.

He was appointed member of the Pontifical Council of Culture by Benedict XVI in December 2011.