Hubert Wolf wins the 2004 Communicator Award

05/04/04

Professor of church history receives 50,000 euros for the best communication of science to the public

This press release is available in German.

This year, the "Communicator Award – Science Award of the Donors' Association" will be awarded to Hubert Wolf. The Professor for Church History in the Middle and Modern Ages in Münster, Germany, will receive 50,000 euros for his outstanding achievements in relating his scientific work to the public. The award will be jointly presented on 30 September by the Donors' Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany (Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft) and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) at a commemorative event to be held during this year's scientific summer programme in Stuttgart, with a lecture by the awardwinner.

The Communicator Award was created in close cooperation between the DFG and the Donors' Association and will be awarded for the fifth time this year. It honours scientists who, in a sustained and exceptional manner, have made efforts to communicate their work to the general public. A jury made up of scientific journalists, communications and PR experts evaluates the applications with regard to relevance, target group, originality and sustained effort. This year, 33 applications from various disciplines were received, of which eleven were short-listed. The jury selected Hubert Wolf from among these as the 2004 winner of the Communicator Award.

Hubert Wolf was born in Wört/Ostalbkreis, Germany, in 1959 and studied Roman Catholic theology in Tübingen and Munich. He was ordained a priest in 1985 and obtained his doctorate of theology in 1990. Just one-and-a-half years later, he qualified as a university lecturer in Tübingen in the field of Church History in the Middle and Modern Ages. In December 1991, Wolf was offered a professorship at the University of Frankfurt. Since 2000, he has been lecturing at the University of Münster. Wolf, who was awarded the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize (the highest honour awarded in German research) in 2003, is working on the evaluation of the archives of the Inquisition and the Papal Index Congregation. A typical feature of Wolf's work is that events in church history are integrated in the larger, interdisciplinary context of political and scientific history.

For many years, Wolf has been committed to presenting the results of his research to the general public. He uses lectures and articles to familiarize the public mainly with topics on church history, often using local aspects to speak in clear, easily understood words of a brave bishop, of apostate churchmen, of denunciations, evil conspiracies, but also the magnanimity of church representatives.

In the meantime, he now focuses his work on imparting the results of his reappraisal of the Vatican Archives. Hubert Wolf has had access to the archives of the Inquisition and the Papal Index Congregation since 1992. In numerous newspaper articles, radio interviews and lectures, Wolf has depicted the complex image of Roman inquisition and index resulting from his research. While using convincing facts to argue against the prejudices that exist concerning the history of the Church, he also bravely depicts the weaknesses and mistakes of his institution. He always carefully explains the historical context of the events in church history to his audience.

For example, in a series of articles he wrote for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in 2003, Wolf depicted the relationship of the Vatican towards the situation of the Jews in Germany and Europe and towards National Socialism. The intriguing written articles, which met with a great response, are historiographically accurate while being written in a stylistically understandable way. They document the Vatican's behaviour and show the motivation behind this behaviour.

The jury acknowledged Wolf as an intellectual who knows how to make the complex realities of church history clear to the public in a lively and committed, but also honest and clear manner.

The results of Hubert Wolf's research have also been shown on television. Several examples were taken from his research area, "Roman Inquisition and Index Congregation" and shown in television reports, such as the index of Heinrich Heine (on the "Arte" channel in 1998). A plan has been drawn up to film his work in the Vatican's archives over a period of twelve years. On his website (www.buchzensur.de), Wolf lets the public access the results of his research on the Inquisition and the Index.

The Communicator Award is depicted symbolically as a hologram designed by the Cologne artist Michael Bleyenberg. It underlines the significance of transparency in science and gives visual expression to the value of putting things into the real light. Just like the hologram, science can only then develop its full brilliance.

From 10 May onwards, a video (format: MOV/Quicktime) showing an extensive discussion with the awardwinner as well as further information can be downloaded from the Internet. Please visit www.dfg.de (section: News - Press > Scientific Prizes). A portrait of Hubert Wolf is also given in the book entitled "Einblicke: Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften in der DFG", published by Lemmens Verlag and available from the DFG (please contact Heike Klebe, Tel.: 49-228 / 885-2109; E-mail: Heike.Klebe@dfg.de). The Press and Public Relations Office of the Stifterverband (Tel.: 49-201 / 840-1158) also has more information on the Communicator Award.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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