A Pope's success in spreading faith prompts a tribute and new ideas

By William G. Schmitt

Introduction to Christianity at 50Introduction to Christianity at 50

A major conference marking the 50th anniversary of Introduction to Christianity, written by Joseph Ratzinger decades before he became Pope Benedict XVI, will invite distinguished scholars and teams of students to consider how a seminal work of theology can be adapted to continue its evangelizing task today.

The conference, titled “Introduction to Christianity at 50: Remembering and Reimagining Theology in the Public Sphere,” will take place Nov. 4-6, 2018, in the McKenna Center. The McGrath Institute for Church Life and the Notre Dame Department of Theology will co-sponsor the event, featuring an international lineup of speakers that includes Most. Rev. Rudolf Voderholzer, Bishop of the Diocese of Regensburg, Germany.

Voderholzer has served on major faculties of theology in religion in Europe and has also offered pastoral care in parishes.

Rev. Richard Schenk, O.P., president emeritus of the Catholic University of Eichstatt-Ingolstadt, Germany, will deliver the keynote address, titled “The Grammar of Articulate Faith Between Memory and Recollection.” Schenk is currently honorary professor of the philosophy of religion at the theological faculty of the Albert Ludwig University in Freiburg, Germany.

The conference will incorporate papers by graduate students and a panel of undergraduates. They have been asked to emulate and update, through the lenses of their own studies and experiences, the acclaimed articulation of faith with which now-Pope Emeritus Benedict reached wide audiences in 1968.

Unlike that time, many people in Western societies today lack the “existential awareness” that made the discernment of faith claims more urgent and increased receptivity to a book like Benedict’s, said  Anthony Pagliarini, Ph.D., an assistant teaching professor in the Theology Department. He helped assemble the conference and will be one of the speakers. See the complete speaker and topic list online.

“We plan a look back that is fruitful for moving forward,” according to Pagliarini. Those seeking to encourage a sense of urgency in the New Evangelization—to “communicate in an attractive way the content of the faith”—will benefit from the anniversary tribute, he said. 
Other speakers will include experts in evangelization and discernment from Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life, as well as the following:

  • John Cavadini, Ph.D., director of the McGrath Institute for Church Life and former chair of the Department of Theology;
  • Rev. Robert Imbelli Ph.D., S.T.L., author of the award-winning book, Rekindling the Christic Imagination: Theological Meditations on the New Evangelization (2014);
  • Francesca Murphy, Ph.D., a Notre Dame professor of theology;
  • Cyril O’Regan, Ph.D., Huisking Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame; and
  • Tracey Rowland, Ph.D., S.T.L., S.T.D., of the University of Notre Dame (Australia), a member of the International Theological Commission and author of two books on the theology of Ratzinger.
  • Clemens Sedmak, Ph.D., a Notre Dame professor of social ethics with a joint appointment in the Keough School of Global Affairs and the Center for Social Concerns.

Registration is required, but the conference is free of charge and open to the general public.