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Professor Veronika Kubina-Schlier, who also converted to Catholicism at the end of her high school education, has kindly agreed to go into some episodes in the life of the family she was born into that further show, were it needed, the Christian witness of Heinrich Schlier. Can you tell us something about the history of your family?
Did any of you continue on the path of theological and exegetical study your father had already taken? My father came from a family of doctors, my mother from one of shopkeepers. They had four children and we have all chosen very different professions: one is a physicist, another is an expert in political economy, my sister is a teacher and journalist, only myself, the youngest, has somehow followed in the footsteps of my father and my mother, who was one of the first female Evangelical theologians.
I completed my studies in theology at Freiburg im Breisgau in with a doctorate on the Book of Job with Professor A. Deissler, and still work as theologian. What resonance was created in your family by the research, the discoveries, the advances made by your father in the exegetical and theological field, and the discussion he maintained with other great scholars such as Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Martin Heidegger, Erik Peterson and others?
Did you ever meet any of them in person? From what our mother told us I got to know a lot about their years of study and their teachers, and in later years also through what my father told me, with whom, in a more relaxed atmosphere I was able to talk comfortably about all that. Do you remember anything, perhaps the way he spoke of it afterwards? As a Christian and a man of clear political views, from the beginning my father as well as my mother made a lucid assessment of the Brown Shirt movement, showing resistance where it was possible.
As a leading figure of the Confessing Church Bekennende Kirche , for example, he made a decisive contribution to the foundation of the Theological University in Elberfeld and was its undercover director. When immediately after its opening, in , the regime put a ban on the University, my father did not hesitate to hand back, that same year, his venia legendi [permission to teach, ed.
The threat to his and our life from the Nazis led, inter alia, to the tragic separation of our family which made itself felt for many years even after the war. Do you find those adjectives catch him? And what others would you think apt to delineate the personality of your father? Biographical evidence from others and also from himself, for example in his letters, give a much more vivid image. He was not an ordinary believer, he was a professor and an Evangelical pastor.
The reactions of the circles around us were, as might be expected, very different and went from open jubilation on the Catholic side to full acceptance and mutual understanding, to incomprehension and concealed and malignant hostility. Many friends and associates from the difficult years, however, remained loyal to my father, sometimes despite serious differences of opinion on the issues.
And about Pope Ratzinger, already known as a theologian from the years of Vatican II and made cardinal by Pope Paul VI in , do you recall any words of your father or any anecdote? Do you know that in his speech on 10 May , on the first centenary of the establishment of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, Cardinal Ratzinger, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, took as his model the paper given by your father in on the ecclesial responsibility of those who study theology?
He thought well of him as a dogmatic theologian, but he complained at times about his lack of sensibility for biblical theology and thought modeled on the Bible. Heinrich Schlier, Breve rendiconto. One reads in many colleagues and interpreters of your father that already in the years immediately following the Second Vatican Council he was rather isolated, almost as if what he himself had written at the end of his short autobiographical work Kurze Rechenschaft Brief account had come true in fact, that it was in a foreign land that he had found his home.
Is that true? And if so, why? For that matter, his scholarly commentaries are among the texts recommended in the theological faculties, something which does not exclude, indeed entails, criticism of them. No wonder if, in the proliferation of theological currents after Vatican II, there have been judgements of another kind.
As to the question about what my father meant with that phrase from his Kurze Rechenschaft, it would require a much more detailed answer. Personally I think it sprang from a profound feeling of being homeless in this world, from a way of perceiving life drawn from various sources. Sometimes what sidelined my father was the envy and jealousy of his Catholic colleagues.
Because of his commitment to the Confessing Church the Bekennende Kirche. In the thirty years since his death has interest in the work and witness of your father grown or waned as far as you know? And if there has been such, how and where has it come from? Do you know that in 30Days gave all its readers a new edition in Italian with a preface by Cardinal Ratzinger and this year new translations in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese, of the short book On the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which have stirred much interest?
Even if the interpretations given by my father may have been unilateral and bound up with the situation of the time — which is true for any scholarly work — the debate in future must face up to his textual analysis.
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