On Saturday 28 October 2023, ACES had the privilege of hosting a stall at the “Benedict Conference”. The gathering was quite sizeable: around 400 in person, with an online streaming presence too. It was held at Australian Catholic University (Cathedral Hall, Melbourne) and principally organised by Fr Dean Mathieson, parish priest of St Joan of Arc, Brighton (Victoria). The focus of the conference was the life and thought of Pope Benedict XVI and how these reflected the transcendentals: truth, goodness and beauty. Accordingly, there was a degree of overlap between the speakers’ presentations and classical education.

The purpose of this planned annual forum was described in this way: “This inaugural event brings together local and international speakers to reflect on the life and legacy of Pope Benedict XVI. The Conference builds its conversations around the themes of Truth, Goodness, Beauty. Gathering the people of God from all over Melbourne and beyond, it seeks to engage with the critical issues affecting the Church and the world at this moment in time.”

There were four keynote speakers, each followed by a panel discussion and Q&A. The opening presentation featured a dialogue between Bishop Robert Barron and Professor Tracey Rowland on the significant intellectual and liturgical contributions made by the recently deceased pope. They were followed by Iain Benson, Professor of Law at Notre Dame University (NSW). Professor Benson spoke about objective truth and the dangers of relativism in post-modern society. Additionally, he explored the need for virtue and how “values” language is essentially subjective and undermines the raising of moral citizens. Jason Evert was the third speaker. His area of discussion was goodness, especially regarding sexual issues, and how to charitably and truthfully address people with identity disorders. Finally, Fr Joseph Fessio SJ, founder of Ignatius Press, and himself a doctoral student of Cardinal Josef Ratzinger (Pope Benedict), regaled the audience with personal stories of beauty about the late pontiff’s life and character.

Between talks, attendees visited the various stalls. ACES was fortunate to engage with many people on the day, some who were completely unfamiliar with classical learning and others who had varying degrees of knowledge. We handed out leaflets, resources and sold some books, as well as making contacts.

ACES would especially like to thank and congratulate Fr Dean Mathieson, John Smyth and all the organisers of the “Benedict Conference” for a superb event. We look forward to many more to come!