VATICAN CITY (CNS) — With "spiritual freshness and joy" despite his physical frailty, retired Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass and met briefly with his former doctoral students at the Vatican Aug. 24.
"It was very beautiful," said Salvatorian Father Stephan Otto Horn, president of the "Ratzinger Schulerkreis" (Ratzinger Student Circle), which has met annually since the 1970s for theological discussion on a topic of current interest.
"There is one thing we still regret and that is that the Holy Father (Pope Benedict) could not be present for our theological discussions," Father Horn told Vatican Radio Aug. 26. Even as a cardinal and as pope until his resignation in 2013, he joined his former students for the meeting.
Pope Benedict, however, continues to choose the topic to be discussed each year. This year, the late August meeting in Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, focused on the theology of the cross.
The group, which has now expanded to include younger theologians specializing in the writings of Pope Benedict, joined the 87-year-old retired pope for Mass Aug. 24 in the chapel of the Teutonic College inside the Vatican.
Father Horn described the liturgy as a "beautiful, solemn Mass" with Pope Benedict giving a homily about the day’s Gospel. Unlike in 2013, neither Vatican Radio nor the Vatican newspaper provided quotes from the homily.
"His preaching was fresh and the proof came from our meeting afterward, during which he appeared fresher than a year ago," Father Horn said. "Naturally, another year has passed, but the spiritual freshness and joy he demonstrated were extraordinary."
From the beginning, Father Horn said, "Pope Benedict felt that his schulerkreis was his family and now the family is growing" as younger theologians join the group.
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