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In Germany, Pope urges faithful to remain 'together against the storm'

Catholic World News - September 22, 2011

As he began a 4-day visit to his native Germany on September 22, Pope Benedict XVI said simply that he had come “to meet people and speak about God.”

In the days leading up to the Pope's arrival, media coverage had focused attention on protests against the Catholic Church in general and the Pope in particular. But few protesters were in evidence during the first day of the Pope's visit, while over 70,000 people gathered with the Pope for an evening Mass. For his part, the Pontiff did not dodge the public controversy, but chose to address it obliquely.

Pope Benedict appeared to be emotionally moved when German President Christian Wulff—who welcomed him at Tegel airport, along with Chancellor Angela Merkel—said: “Welcome home, Holy Father!” But he accepted the challenge the Wulff observed that in today’s Germany, “Christian belief is no longer a foregone conclusion.”

In his own remarks at the airport welcoming ceremony, the Pope acknowledged: “We are witnessing a growing indifference to religion in society, which considers the issue of truth as something of an obstacle in its decision-making, and instead gives priority to utilitarian considerations.” However, he argued, that approach is misguided: “The fact that there are values which are not absolutely open to manipulation is the true guarantee of our freedom.”

The Pope quickly set the tone for his visit, speaking about the need for clear moral principles as the basis for a free society. He said that Germany “has become what it is today thanks to the power of freedom shaped by responsibility before God and before one another.”

From the airport, the papal motorcade proceeded into Berlin, where the Holy Father met privately with President Wulff at the presidential residence, then with Chancellor Merkel at the headquarters of the German bishops’ conference. In the afternoon he delivered a stirring address to the country’s parliament, emphasizing the need for objective standards of justice. (See http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=11827 today’s separate CWN headline story for more on that important speech.)

In the evening the Pope presided at an outdoor Mass in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. In his homily the Pope reflected on what it means for the faithful “to live as branches of Christ, the true vine, and to bring forth rich fruit.” After speaking about the importance of life in Christ, the Pontiff again spoke candidly about the widespread disaffection from the Church in Germany:

Many people see only the outward form of the Church. This makes the Church appear as merely one of the many organizations within a democratic society, whose criteria and laws are then applied to the task of evaluating and dealing with such a complex entity as the 'Church.' If to this is added the sad experience that the Church contains both good and bad fish, wheat and darnel, and if only these negative aspects are taken into account, then the great and deep mystery of the Church is no longer seen.

Later in his homily, the Pope underlined the need for Christians to cling to the Church in times of trouble:

In our era of restlessness and lack of commitment, when so many people lose their way and their grounding, when loving fidelity in marriage and friendship has become so fragile and short-lived, when in our need we cry out like the disciples on the road to Emmaus: “Lord, stay with us, for it is almost evening and darkness is all around us!” (cf. Lk 24:29), then the risen Lord gives us a place of refuge, a place of light, hope and confidence, a place of rest and security.

The Church, the Pope reminded the massive congregation, is one body, whose members support each other. "They stand firm together against the storm and they offer one another protection."

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