Pope Francis has appointed Jesuit Fr. Paul Beré, the first African to win the Ratzinger Prize, as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, which is an entity within the Roman Curia established to ensure the proper interpretation and defense of Sacred Scripture.
The Holy See Press Office announced the appointment of the native of Burkina Faso who offers lectures in Sacred Scripture at the Rome-based Pontifical Biblical Institute alongside nine other Biblical scholars Monday, January 25.
On 30 September 2019, Fr. Beré made history as the first ever African to win the Ratzinger Prize, which rewards the work of theologians and specialists from related disciplines.
In a one-on-one interview with ACI Africa a week after he had been declared the winner, Fr. Beré said of his work, “I did not intend to be seen. My deep desire was to really promote an in-depth research in theology for the Church in Africa, and for African societies.”
On what the award by the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation means to him as an individual, the Rome-based Cleric who has been a consultant to the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity since 2018 said, “First of all, it honors the labor of African Theologians. The echo I got from my African theologians worldwide confirms that.”
He added referencing the Ratzinger Prize, “It encourages me to pursue my own research in the field of Scripture. Africa has the potential to bring some insight into the exegetical work. Inculturation is not limited to dogmatic, moral, or spiritual theology, canon law, etc. It should involve Scripture studies as well.”
As an African Theologian, “the award strengthens my self-esteem because as an African in some spheres we are ‘voiceless,’ even when we speak,” Fr. Beré who is also a consultant for the Pontifical Council for Culture since 2014 told ACI Africa in the 8 October 2019 interview.
Established in October 1902 by Pope Leo XIII, the Pontifical Biblical Commission has the mandate to promote biblical study effectively among Catholics, counteract erroneous opinions regarding Sacred Scripture by scientific means, and to study and illuminate debated questions and emerging problems in the biblical field.
With his February 1904 Apostolic Letter Scripturae Sanctae, Pope St. Pius X granted to the Biblical Commission the faculty of conferring the academic degrees of licentiate and doctorate in Biblical Studies.
To make the work of the Commission more effective and better adapted in the contemporary environment, Pope Paul VI established new norms for the organization and functioning of the entity through the June 1971 Motu Proprio ‘Sedula cura’.
With the 1971 document, the membership of the commission shifted from Cardinals assisted by consultors to teachers in biblical science coming from various academic institutions across the globe, who are distinguished “for their learning, prudence and Catholic respect for the ecclesiastical Magisterium.”
The document also made the new Biblical Commission a consultative body placed at the service of the Magisterium and linked to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, whose Prefect is the President of the Commission.
As a member of the Biblical Commission, 54-year-old Fr. Beré who is also a member of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) is expected to serve for a five-year term renewable once.