CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNA)—Pope Benedict XVI gave a rare television address in which he urged Germans to restore God to their horizon, just before he travels to the country later this week.
“I am very happy to be departing for Germany in a few days time,” said the Pope on the German religious program Wort Zum Sontag (Word on Sunday). The brief address was recorded several days ago in his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo. Word on Sunday has been running on German television for more than 50 years; each week it features a priest or pastor with a sermon. Pope John Paul II appeared on the same program back in 1987.
“I think with particular joy of Berlin, where I will attend many meetings, and, naturally, of my address to the Bundestag and the great Mass we will celebrate at the Olympic stadium, ” he said Sept. 18.
Pope Benedict leaves for his four-day visit to Germany this Thursday, Sept. 22. He is scheduled to give 18 sermons and speeches during the 21st foreign trip of his six-year pontificate.
“This is not religious tourism; still less is it a ‘show,’” said the Pope, getting to the heart of his visit’s purpose.
“Its significance is well expressed in the motto accompanying these days: ‘Where God is, there lies the future.’ What this means is that we must restore God to our horizon, the God who is so often absent but of whom we have such great need.”
But some Germans are not eager for their fellow countryman to visit. Over 100 left-wing parliamentarians say they are planning to boycott the Pope’s Sept. 23 address to the Bundestag in Berlin, claiming it violates the separation of church and state.
In response, German Chancellor Angela Merkel used her weekly podcast to call upon all Germans to welcome the Pope. The daughter of a Lutheran pastor, she also called upon Germany’s Christians to recognize what unites them.
“I think it is important to constantly reinforce the unity of Christians at a time when we are confronted by a growing secularism,” Merkel said Sept. 18.
As well as visiting Berlin, the Pope will also travel to Erfurt, the birthplace of the Lutheran Reformation 500 years ago this year, where he will join Protestant ministers for a joint prayer service. He will then travel onto Freiburg in the southwest part of the country for a prayer vigil with young people. In each location he will celebrate a public Mass. The Pope told television viewers that he wanted Germans to learn how to reconnect with God.
“You may ask me: ‘But does God exist? And if he exists does he really concern himself with us? Can we reach him?” he said on the TV program. “It is, indeed, true that we cannot place God on the table; we cannot touch him or pick him up like an ordinary object. We must rediscover our capacity to perceive God, a capacity that exists within us.”
The Pope suggested to viewers that they can get some idea of the greatness of God from observing the cosmos because it reveals that “the world is built in a rational way; and in the great rationality of the world, we can get some idea of the Creator Spirit from which it comes; in the beauty of creation we can get some idea of the beauty, the greatness and the goodness of God.”
He added that we also “catch a glimpse of God” in holy Scriptures, where “we hear the words of eternal life,” and in meeting “people who have been touched” by God. This not only includes the great saints, he said, but also “the many simple people about whom nobody speaks” yet whose lives emanate “goodness, sincerity and joy,” so that “we know that God is there and that he also touches us.”
“Thus, over these days,” said the Pope concluding his television address, “let us commit ourselves to seeing God again, to becoming people who bring the light of hope into the world, a light that comes from God and that helps us to live.”