Father Antoine Saroyan, pastor of Saint Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Catholic Parish in Glendale had the great honor and privilege of attending his thirty-second annual meeting with his professor, Pope Benedict XVI.
As a doctoral student of dogmatic theology at the University of Regensburg, Germany, from 1975 through 1984, Father Antoine Saroyan drew inspiration from his theology professor, Joseph Ratzinger. The professor was an intellectual theologian, destined for greatness. When Cardinal Ratzinger stepped out of the Vatican balcony, as the newly elected Pope in 2005, Fr. Saroyan knew that his inspiration had indeed come from a divine source.
In 1975, Fr. Saroyan became a member of the “Sch?lerkreis,” a close circle of Professor Ratzinger’s doctoral and professorial students. He is the only Armenian to have ever been a member of this elite Circle. In his capacity as Cardinal Ratzinger’s student, he attended lectures and seminars along with the annual theological meeting of the great professor. During these meetings, the students discuss various theological topics of importance to the church. Despite his election to the Papacy, the Holy Father maintained this tradition and for the third consecutive year, he invited his students for the annual meeting.
This year’s meeting took place during the weekend of September 14-16, 2007, at Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer residence, outside Rome. Fr. Saroyan was one of two students, from the United States to attend the meeting. Surrounded by fifty of his students, and having two professors, a scientist and a theologian as guest speakers, the great professor headed a debate on the topic of “Creation and Faith.”
On Sunday morning, the Pope concelebrated Holy Mass with his students. After the Divine Liturgy, a private breakfast was served to celebrate the 80th birthday of the Holy Father. The meeting ended with the participation of the “Sch?lerkreis” at the traditional “Angelus” with the message and pontifical blessing of the Holy Father.
During a private audience, Fr. Saroyan related his parishioners’ and community’s prayers for the Pontiff. In turn, Pope Benedict XVI granted his blessings and offered prayers to the Armenian community.