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The Great Renouncement

Seminar on Reinhold Schneider with p. Jacques Servais from 19 to 24 December

Pope Celestine V [1215-1296]

Schneider's work takes the reader to the year 1294. With a view to Celestine V and Boniface VIII, «the problem of power between church and world, pope and empire» is dealt with. But this is rooted deeper than is visible to the outside world, so much so that looking at its roots becomes almost unbearable because it is found in «the dialectic of power in the innermost district of history: in the Holy Church».


«The guilt is working. Can you hear it ticking? This is the woodworm of power». Peter of Murrhone (Celestine V) recognises the desperate situation of the Church in prayer and, not knowing what he is doing, offers himself: «Take me, Lord!». But «where all order is crumbling, what can the righteous do»? Thus the pious hermit, elevated to the papacy, becomes entangled in the web of power within the Church, represented by Benedetto Gaëtani (Boniface VIII) and the upper echelons of the Church, and worldly power, represented by the disputing emperors and kings of Europe at the time.

Reinhold Schneider (1903-1958)

On the one side the contemplative, on the other the powerful rulers. Here the worldly saint, there the ruler consumed by greed for power, most strikingly epitomised by Boniface VIII. It seems to be the pure dialectic of the two irreconcilable opposites. But the question arises: «Is it not possible to harbour both in a single heart: power and the cross, shaping the world and overcoming it?»


Reinhold Schneider's implacable questions about the possibility of Christian existence in this world should be heard now more than ever. (Hans Urs von Balthasar)


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