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Posted 02 April 2009

Rahner: Theologian for the 21st Century?

The life and work of one of the leading Roman Catholic theologians of the 20th century, German theologian, Karl Rahner was commemorated at a conference in Newman House, Dublin on 30 March 2009. The date marked the 25th anniversary of Rahner’s death.

Born in 1904 in Freiburg, Germany, Rahner entered the Jesuit order in 1922. He studied for the priesthood at seminaries in Feldkirch, Austria (1922-25), Pullach, near Munich (1925-27), and Valkenburg, Netherlands (1929-33). He was ordained priest in 1932. Rahner was strongly influenced by the German philosopher Martin Heidegger. His doctoral dissertation, a new interpretation of the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, was published in 1939 as Spirit in the World. Rahner spent most of his career, lasting until 1971, teaching systematic theology at Innsbruck, Munich and Münster.

“It is entirely appropriate that a leading European theologian should be commemorated by UCD in this way as Ireland was a constitutive part of the history of Christianity in Europe and had been since the first millennium journeys of Columbanus and his monastic successors, commemorated in Cardinal John Henry Newman’s essay: “The Isles of the North”, said Professor Brigid Laffan, Principal of the UCD College of Human Sciences who formally opened the conference hosted by the UCD International Centre for Newman Studies.

Talking History, Newstalk 106 – 108 fm, 29 March 2009
Dr Lindsey Earner-Byrne, UCD School of History and Archives, in conversation with Dr Padraic Conway, Director of the UCD International Centre for Newman Studies, about Karl Rahner on the occasion of the conference Karl Rahner: Theologian for the 21st Century?

Duration 12:25

Dr Declan Marmion S.M., editor of The Cambridge Companion to Karl Rahner, gave the keynote lecture at the conference entitled: Rahner - A theologian for the 21st Century? Marmion affirmed that Rahner, while temporarily out of fashion in official circles, is a more promising resource for Christian theology in the 21st century than many of his currently more popular contemporaries.

At the conference, Dr Fáinche Ryan of the Mater Dei Institute spoke of the relationship between Rahner and Thomas Aquinas.  Dr Pádraic Conway, Director of the UCD International Centre for Newman Studies, outlined the parallels between Newman and Rahner as men of letters. And Dr Jim Corkery S.J. described the long and complex relationship between Karl Rahner and his younger compatriot Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.

His Excellency Dr Walter Haag, Ambassador of Austria to Ireland, chaired the concluding round-table session. According to Dr Haag, Rahner, who spent many long years at Innsbruck, held Austrian citizenship, as well as German, because citizenship is automatically awarded to all who achieve the rank of professor in Austria.

Other distinguished attendees at the conference were: former UCD President Dr Art Cosgrove; Dr Dermot Lane, President of the Mater Dei Institute; Professor Enda McDonagh, emeritus Professor of Moral Theology at Maynooth; and Prof. Sean Freyne, emeritus Professor of Theology, Trinity College, Dublin.

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Rahner: Theologian for the 21st Century?