A noted French philosopher and friend of retired pontiff Benedict XVI reflected that the former Pope's greatest contribution during his pontificate could be how he addressed the rationality of belief.

"As far as I can judge…the way in which he asked afresh the question of the relationship between faith and reason might have a lasting influence," Remi Brague told CNA in an Oct. 25 interview.

Brague, who attended this year's Ratzinger Foundation Conference held from Oct. 24-26 in Rome, is a historian of philosophy, specializing in the Arabic, Jewish, and Christian thought of the Middle Ages, and is the author of several analysis books on Western thought.

The Ratzinger Foundation is an international group composed of the former Pope's students who gather every year for the purpose of scholarly research and study.

As someone who has worked and collaborated closely with Benedict XVI, Brague stated that although he is "no prophet," he believes that the way in which Benedict "asked afresh the question of the relationship between faith and reason and, in particular, the way in which he deepened, he compelled us to deepen the question about what exactly reason is," will be an enduring gift of the former Pope.

"Reason, revelation, in its Christian form," Brague stressed, "might be a boon for human reason, might compel her to open up and to reach the full range of its possibilities" without becoming narrower or less lively as it could be.

"For this reason," he emphasized, "I think that the Christian revelation is interesting for a philosopher too," because "philosophy has to not only sift out whatever is revealed," but also "take into account the possible opportunities for her to grow broader and to encompass things that she couldn't have possibly thought of previously."

At last year's Ratzinger Foundation Conference, Brague was given the "Ratzinger Award," which is handed out every year in order to promote further study of the writings of the former university professor, Benedict XVI.

On receiving last year's award, the philosopher recalled that "it was a great honor and a joy for me to be sure, on the other hand," however "it was a kiss of death for my secular colleagues."

Although for him it was "emphatically positive," to be chosen for the award, Brague revealed that the reception of it has made it more difficult to address colleagues in the secular world.

When asked if he would have preferred not to receive the award for that reason, the philosopher replied that "Certainly not, on the contrary! Christians must be at the same time supporters of law and order and, at the same time, well, they have to be dangerous."

"If we should lose this subversive dimension," he stressed, "well, perhaps I would give up, give up being a Christian, for this would mean that the salt of the earth would have lost its flavor."