Student Essay Contest: Benedict XVI's Legacy

Benedict XVI's legacy

Essay Contest

Benedict XVI’s Legacy: Unfinished Debates on Faith, Culture, and Politics

The de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture is pleased to announce a student essay contest as part of an international project honoring the enduring intellectual legacy of Pope Benedict XVI.

Undergraduate and graduate students from Notre Dame, Saint Mary's College, and Holy Cross College are invited to submit essays of no more than 5,000 words responding to one of six select speeches and one letter of the former pontiff—interventions that span the foundation of human rights, liberal democratic tradition, the nature of law and justice, the relationship between faith and reason, the sexual abuse crisis, and the contribution of Christianity to culture.

Selected essays will be awarded a $500 prize and invited for presentation at a conference to take place April 8–9, 2024. Deadline for submission is March 1, 2024.

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About the Project

The de Nicola Center is proud to host the second installment of an international project on “Benedict XVI’s Legacy: Unfinished Debates on Faith, Culture, and Politics” at the University of Notre Dame, April 8–9, 2024.

Hosted in partnership with the Ratzinger Foundation and the Benedict XVI Institute, and launched in November 2023 with a conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University, this initiative invites scholars and experts from around the globe to engage select texts from Benedict XVI’s pontificate, consider their enduring and intergenerational import, and to reflect on the legacy they point toward today.

Submission Details

Submissions must respond to one of the texts listed below. Strong entries will engage the theme of the selected text and consider its continued import, particularly in light of current events in the Church and the world, and from the perspective of the young generation of Catholic students today.

1. Human Rights. Speech at the United Nations (New York) April 18, 2008
2. Faith, Democracy and Politics. Speech at the Westminster Hall (London) Sep. 17, 2010
3. Law, Justice and Faith. Speech at the Bundestag (Berlin) Sep. 22, 2011
4. Faith and Reason. Lecture at the University of Regensburg (Germany) Sep. 12, 2006
5. Science, Technology and Faith. Lecture at the University of La Sapienza (Rome) Jan. 17, 2008
6. Christianity and Culture. Speech at the Collège des Bernardins (Paris) Sep. 12, 2008
7. Sexual Abuse. Pastoral letter to the Catholics in Ireland. Mar. 19, 2010

Essays that show exceptional promise will be selected for conference participation and awarded a $500 prize. Deadline for submission is March 1, 2024. 

All essays should be submitted via the official Essay Contest Google Form; please do not email essay submissions. For more information or questions, please contact Justin Petrisek (

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