Dr. Daniel Burns named to "Pope Benedict's Book Club."
September 16, 2015
Assistant professor of politics, Dr. Daniel Burns, has recently been inducted into
a unique group of scholars. The group, causally referred to as "Pope Benedict's Book
Club," is a group of scholars who meet once a year to discuss topics to which they
have devoted extensive study.
Before taking the position, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was a theology professor who
taught at many German institutes. After becoming a bishop, he created a group called
Ratzinger Schulerkreis, German for "circle of students," which included his former
students. The group met once a year to discuss topics of interest, similar to the
discussions he led as a professor. In 2008, the group decided to invite scholars to
join a younger wing of the group called Neuer Schulerkreis Joseph Ratzinger/ Benedikt
These two groups have individual meetings and a meeting with each other each year.
Though Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is not typically included in the disucssions anymore,
he does meet the members and celebrates Mass at the end of each meeting.
"What made me want to apply was, first, the opportunity to meet Pope Benedict in person--but
the main point of the group is not to meet Pope Benedict, it's to meet these other
people that are interested in him," Burns said. "And that's been exciting for me especially
because, being an American, I don't really have many other opportunities to get to
Europe and meet European scholars... There is this whole equally large world out there
on the other side of the Atlantic."
The group meets, discusses topics and shares their work. The older group often shares
stories about taking classes from Professor Ratzinger. "Ultimately the more important
thing is-- and I haven't gotten to do much of this just yet because I am new but I
am looking forward to it-- exchanging our work reading each other's articles, and
giving each other comments and feedback," Burns said. "That's the main thing that's
exciting for me."
Burns said Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and his work have influenced him and his teaching
significantly. Burns reveres him as a model of a modern Christian. "I think the central
preoccupation of his whole intellectual life since he was a college student is whether
the Christian faith is true," Burns said. "He says we've got to be honest, and if
we can't believe this stuff we've got to stop being Christians... That's really driven
him from the beginning, I think, and also as a personal question: is this really something
I can base my life on?"
Burns has learned much from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, including how to read the
Bible, how to relate the faith to a broader society, and how to include philosophic
inquiry in faith-- all three of which are the Pope Emeritus' main topics of work and
"I mean, if I had been born 40 years earlier, I really like to think that I would
have done everything in my power to get over to Germany and study with Professor Ratzinger,
but I was born at the wrong time of human history for that to be possible," Burns
said. Burns' admiration for the Pope Emeritus and his work led him to apply to the
For more on Dr. Burns and to read the rest of this article, visit The University News.