Cardinal Camillo Ruini praised Tuesday the two winners of the 2014 Ratzinger Prize for their academic accomplishments and their commitment to the faith.

At a June 17 press conference announcing the prizes, the vicar general emeritus of the Diocese of Rome, said scripture professor Anne-Marie Pelletier is a person of "great importance" in French Catholicism today, saying she "brings together an earned scientific prestige with a great and versatile cultural vitality and a genuine dedication to causes very important for Christian witness in society."

He praised Monsignor Waldemar Chrostowski, a Polish biblical scholar, for combining "academic rigor with passion for the Word of God, in service to the Church and with care for interreligious dialogue."

Cardinal Ruini is president of the scientific committee of the Joseph Ratzinger Vatican Foundation, which awards the Ratzinger Prize.

The prize was begun in 2011 to recognize scholars whose work demonstrates a meaningful contribution to theology in the spirit of Cardinal Ratzinger, the theologian who became Benedict XVI.

Cardinal Ruini told CNA June 17 that Pelletier, who teaches at Paris' Notre Dame Seminary, "stood out," praising her competence as a biblical scholar and as a student of comparative literature, as well as her "sharp intellectual capacity" and her strong commitment to "very important causes" such as women's relationship with the Church.

Pelletier has taught biblical studies at the European Institute of Religious Sciences and served as vice-president of the Jewish-Christian Documentation Information Service in Paris. She has participated in several Vatican-sponsored conferences and was an auditor at the 2001 synod of bishops. She is the first woman to win the prize.

Msgr. Chrostowski has headed the Polish Association of Biblical Scholars since 2005. He is the general editor of the journal Collectanea Theologica, and was an expert at the 2008 bishops' synod.

He is a specialist in the prophetic books of the Old Testament, expert in rabbinical Judaism and its relationship with Christianity. He has worked to advance Christian-Jewish relations.

Cardinal Ruini said the monsignor has a "very large" record of scientific production and has "done a lot to spread the Word of God, in the biblical apostolate and in the apostolate in general."

"He is truly an apostle."

Cardinal Ruini said that the prize committee consciously sought out an honoree from Poland and a woman, as the prize had never gone to such winners previously.

The cardinal said the committee has invited Benedict XVI to the awards ceremony.

"We hope that he comes, but this depends on him."

While some have compared the Ratzinger Prize to the Nobel Prize in theology, the cardinal said the honor does not yet have this "prestige."

"We hope that by making good choices, it will achieve greater authority," he said of the prize.

Past Ratzinger Prize honorees include Notre Dame University theology professor Father Brian Edward Daley, S.J., French lay philosopher Remi Brague, Italian patristics scholar Manlio Simonetti, Anglican professor Richard Burridge of King's College London, and German theology professor Christian Schaller.

The June 17 press conference also spoke about preparations for the Ratzinger Foundation's fourth conference, to be held Oct. 23-24 at the Pontifical University Bolivariana in Medellin, Colombia. Its theme will be "respect for life, the way to peace."

The Ratzinger Foundation was founded with Benedict XVI's approval in 2010 to promote, distribute, and study his writings.