UD professor Daniel Burns invited to papal study group

Dr. Daniel Burns named to "Pope Benedict's Book Club."

September 16, 2015

Contributing author: Paige Parks, The University News

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 XVI.

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 study. 

"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 Ratzinger group. 

For more on Dr. Burns and to read the rest of this article, visit The University News

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