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Pope pays tribute to Peterson: ‘From him I learned … what theology really is’

October 29, 2010

Pope Benedict has paid tribute to Erik Peterson (1890-1960), a theologian who specialized in early Christianity and converted from Lutheranism to Catholicism in Rome in 1930. Unable to secure a professorship because of his opposition to fascism, Peterson and his family were reduced to poverty until his 1947 appointment as professor at the Papal Institute for Christian Archaeology.

“I first discovered the figure of Erik Peterson in 1951,” Pope Benedict recalled, adding:

At the time I was chaplain in Bogenhausen, and the director of the local publishing house Kosel, Mr. Wild, gave me the volume, just published, "Theologische Traktate" (Theological Treatises). I read it with increasing curiosity and let myself be truly impassioned by this book, because the theology I was looking for was there: a theology that employs all the historical seriousness to understand and study the texts, analyzing them with all the seriousness of historical research, and not allowing them to remain in the past, but that, in his research, he participates in the self-surmounting of the letter, enters into this self-surmounting and lets himself be led by it and in this way enters into contact with the One from whom theology itself comes: with the living God … Thus, from him I learned, in the most essential and profound way, what theology really is, and I also felt admiration, because here he does not only say what he thinks, but this book is an expression of a path that was the passion of his life.


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