Australian Professor and French Philosopher win Ratzinger Prize

Professor Tracey Rowland, St John Paul II Chair in Theology at the University of Notre Dame (Australia). Credit: Emmaus Academic/ St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology.

An Australian professor and a French philosopher were named the winners of this year’s Ratzinger Prize Oct. 1.

Former Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, president of the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation, announced Thursday that the 2020 award would be shared by Tracey Rowland and Jean-Luc Marion.

Rowland holds the St. John Paul II Chair of Theology at the University of Notre Dame Australia. A member of the International Theological Commission, her books include “Ratzinger’s Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI” and “Benedict XVI: A Guide for the Perplexed.”

Rowland told Australia’s Catholic Weekly that she was “surprised but not totally shocked” to receive the award “because I have published quite a lot about the theology of Joseph Ratzinger, including two books that have been translated into other languages.”

Marion, a former student of the major 20th-century philosopher Jacques Derrida, is a member of the Académie française, the exclusive group of 40 French intellectuals known as “immortals.” He is a professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School and a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture. He is associated with the idea of “saturated phenomena,” and is regarded as one of the world’s leading Catholic thinkers.

The award recipients were selected by Pope Francis, based upon the recommendations of a committee composed of five members: Cardinal Angelo Amato, Cardinal Kurt Koch, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, and Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of of Regensburg.

The Ratzinger Prize was launched in 2011 to recognize scholars whose work demonstrates a meaningful contribution to theology in the spirit of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Bavarian theologian who became Benedict XVI.

Last year Fr. Paul Béré, a Jesuit priest from Burkina Faso, became the first African to win the prestigious award. The other 2019 winner was the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, author of the monumental “A Secular Age.”

Pope Francis usually presents the awards to the winners at a ceremony in November.

Rowland told Catholic Weekly that Benedict XVI remained a vital intellectual figure at the age of 93.

She said: “His understanding of secularism and cultural Marxism is deep. He can therefore write in such a way that young people reading him feel as though he understands the pathologies of the culture into which they have been born.”

“He gives them the backstory, explaining the moves on the chessboard of the European intelligentsia that got Western culture into its current mess, and he gives them the remedies, the intellectual antidotes.”


ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]