Hans Urs von Balthasar, who died in 1988, was one of the major figures in Catholic intellectual life, and a major influence on both Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Pope John Paul II. His theological vision and output was immense, taking in the whole range of European religious history and literature. His work may be seen in many ways as the culmination of the "new theology" and "ressourcement" movements of the early twentieth century, in which he was closely associated with figures such as Henri de Lubac, Louis Bouyer and Jean Danielou. He differed from his famous contemporary, the great Karl Rahner, in several important respects, especially concerning the foundations of Christian anthropology (the "supernatural existential"). For reasons connected with his decision to leave the Jesuits and found the Community of St John with the mystic Adrienne von Speyr, he was forced to work in the ecclesiastical wilderness for many years, before achieving recognition in the form of the Paul VI Prize for theology and eventually a Cardinalate from John Paul II.
The Centre for Faith & Culture instituted in 1995 an annual lecture series called the Hans Urs von Balthasar Lectures. Each Lecture is subsequently published in Communio (see below). The first lecturer (in December 1995) was Professor David L. Schindler (Gagnon Professor of Fundamental Theology at the John Paul II Institute in Washington). He spoke about the tension between "conservative" and "progressive" statements in the documents of the Second Vatican Council - and particularly about the apparent tension in Gaudium et Spes between a radical Christocentrism and the autonomy of the created order, which he found resolved by Pope John Paul II read in the light of Hans Urs von Balthasar's theology. The second Lecture was given by Fr Jacques Servais SJ, Rector of the Casa Balthasar in Rome, on Balthasar's theology of the Secular Institutes. The third Lecture will be given by Mgr Angelo Scola, Rector of the Lateran University, on 21 March 1998. The topic is "The Nuptial Mystery at the Heart of the Church" - one of the most controversail aspects of Balthasar's ecclesial vision.
In 1972, Balthasar with a number of his colleagues and friends founded an international cultural and theological review called Communio. It now exists in the form of 13 distinct and semi-autonomous editions in different languages around the world. At present, the only English-language edition is the American, which is edited from Washington, DC, by David L. Schindler. This is distributed outside North America by T&T Clark Publishers.
In this connection it might be interesting to assemble here some texts defining the mission of
Communio. Fr Antonio Sicari OCD once reflected on the ideals of the journal in the light of an article by Balthasar
in the first-ever issue, more than twenty years ago. Communio, he writes, is a "place of observation"
in which one may locate oneself to do theology; "a place of observation in which existing tensions and divisions
are seen, to be sure, in all their seriousness and hardness, but in the certainty that they are already vanquished
and embraced, in such a way that this certainty dictates a precise theological method and throws its characteristic
light on problems" - including the problem of divisions within the Church. Quoting L. Sartori, he affirms
"the value of communion and communication among the greatest possible number of reflective believers, as if
all were simultaneously in the circle".
For current rates (for individuals and institutions) in the U.S. please contact Communio, P.O. Box 4557, Washington, DC 20017-0557.
For current rates in U.K., Eire, Europe and British Commonwealth countries, please contact T.&T.
Clark, 59 George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2LQ. (Tel. 0131-225-4703).
The online magazine of The Centre for Faith and Culture, Oxford is now online at: http://www.secondspring.co.uk
Version: 5th January 2001