Pope Benedict XVI among the Trivenetian theologians: the event in Roana, in the Plateau, in April 1975

April 1975 At the invitation of Msgr. Sartori, Joseph Ratzinger, then a professor in Regensburg, goes up to the Plateau, in Roana, for the first of the two conferences organized with the Cimbrian Institute of Culture. Over sixty scholars on the Altopiano dei Sette Comuni they discussed with the future pope the Holy Spirit and Christian Salvation in comparison with history and modernity

Roan. April 1975. Sixty theologians from Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Trentino Alto Adige meet for the 22nd time at a conference. Themed “The Holy Spirit and history”. The illustrious guest is the dean of the brand new University of Regensburg, prof. Joseph Ratzinger, who came from Bavaria with two assistants. How the future cardinal and pope had arrived in the small town of the plateau is explained by two reasons. The first is the relationship with the famous Paduan theologian, originally from Roana, Msgr. Luigi Sartori, who like Ratzinger had been to the Second Vatican Council as an expert, and precisely in the last sessions of the great assembly of all the bishops of the world, a relationship of dialogue and esteem was born. Secondly, the common cultural and linguistic background between Bavaria – to which the theologian and later also the bishop of Monaco will remain forever linked – and the Altopiano dei Sette Comuni, Cimbrian land par excellence for centuries, so much so that, as writes Msgr. Ermanno Roberto Tura in the number 2/1975 of Studia Patavina, «for centuries the parish priests of the plateau came from the diocese of Freising, also due to the local “Cimbra” language». Not even the avalanches that occurred 48 years ago on the Alpine passes were able to block “this Venetian-Bavarian attempt at theological fraternity”, wrote Tura who was the protagonist of that conference. In addition to the study sessions, the theologian recalls two Eucharistic celebrations and a convivial evening “full of mountain choirs and filmic memories of the plateau”, all organized “stupendously” by the Cimbrian Institute of Culture (which turns 50 in 2023) «who has given proof of an unsuspected sensitivity for culture, including theological one». From a scientific point of view, the conference developed along two lines: the first, more internal to theology, concerned the problem of the relationship between the “already” of the present time and the “not yet” of beyond history; the second focused on the confrontation with modern culture and «carried forward – noted Msgr. Tura in the journal of religious sciences – a defense that is also polemical and apologetic against the accusation of unrealism directed at Christian thought». The conclusions by points of Msgr. Sartori first of all posed the problem of language: speaking of the afterlife requires a sense of critical sobriety and a symbolic descriptive language like the one used by Jesus. Sartori also noted the overcoming of traditional dualisms such as natural-supernatural, profane-sacred, hereafter-afterlife: historical and eschatological salvation are two aspects of the same reality. The conference also underlined the continuity between history and the afterlife in the perspective of Gaudium et Spes “with the certainty that nothing of history is lost but everything is assumed in eternity”. But the discourse that most attracted attention concerned the attempt to bring the hereafter to the hereafter not only on an ethical and psychological level. «Objectively, eternal life already begins here now and develops in history as a real leaven: it is a question of a very interesting discourse to be developed on the Sacraments, the Church, the presence of the Spirit, of the Word and of Grace in human history. Archbishop Gargitter, bishop of Bolzano-Bressanone, concluded by emphasizing how the greatest danger then (as today) for the Church was not the excesses of some theologians but rather “the silent emigration of people of culture and others, because they do not find Church freedom, the space to live and think.

For two consecutive years in Roana

The 22nd Convention of Triveneto theologians was held in Roana on 2-3 April 1975. Prof. Ratzinger also participated in the following one, on 20-21 April 1976, in the same venue, but with the theme “Christian salvation between history and the afterlife”. The Ave publishing house has published the proceedings of both, edited by Mons. Sartori and the future Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope Benedict XVI among the Trivenetian theologians: the event in Roana, in the Plateau, in April 1975