Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), a Jesuit, anthropologist and prominent spiritual figure, experienced the powerful tensions of a complex twentieth century marked by wars, ideological controversies and major discoveries. Among Teilhard’s readers was Joseph Ratzinger. Teilhard’s name appears six times in Introduction to Christianity, a 1968 work by Ratzinger that has already become a classic. In fact, the Jesuit paleontologist’s name is one of the most frequently mentioned in this book, which continues to fascinate for its freshness and novelty within the Christian tradition.
Like it or not, Ratzinger admired Teilhard. From his earliest writings he regarded the Jesuit as a key author for Christian <>aggiornamento in the modern world. In the words of the theologian-turned-pope we can accept that the “synthesis” proposed by Teilhard remains “faithful to Pauline Christology, whose profound thought is clearly perceived and restored to a new intelligibility.”
It is through Ratzinger’s writings that we can see how the reception of the Teilhardian vision was also present in Vatican II, albeit somewhat marginally. As a leading figure at the Council, Ratzinger was of the view that there was a certain evidence of Teilhard’s thought in the draft of the famous pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes, especially with regard to “the Teilhardian theme” that “Christianity means greater progress.”