VATICAN CITY (EWTN News/CNA)—Pope Benedict XVI said he “was happy to see that the faith in my German homeland has a young face, that it is alive and has a future.” The Pope made his comments at his weekly Wednesday audience held in Rome’s St. Peter’s Square.
“This apostolic trip to Germany provided me with an opportunity to meet the faithful of my own homeland, to confirm them in faith, hope and love, to share with them the joy of being Catholic,” said the Pope Sept. 28.
“But my message was also addressed to the German people as a whole, inviting them to look to the future with trust. It is certain that ‘where God is, there is a future.’”
Pope Benedict’s four-day visit, which concluded on Sunday, Sept. 25, took him all across his native country.
Today he dwelt upon some of the trip’s highlights, starting with his address to the German parliament, the Bundestag, on the first day of his visit.
He said he had wanted to use the address to “expose the foundation of law and free state of law” so to help civil society to “broaden our concept of nature, understanding it not only as a set of functions but beyond this as the language of the Creator to help us discern right from wrong.” In short, said the Pope, quoting the 19th-century German Bishop Wilhelm von Ketteler, “Just as religion requires freedom, freedom also needs religion.”
The German media had predicted that the papal parliamentary address would be subject to protest and boycott. In the end, both largely failed to materialize, and the Pope’s remarks were well received by German civil society.
While in Berlin, the Pope met with leaders of the Jewish community with whom he had remembered Christianity’s “common roots in faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” He also fondly recalled his meeting with Muslim leaders and their discussion of “the importance of religious freedom for the peaceful development of humanity.”
The Pope said he had also used his visit to reach out to Protestant Christians. In fact, on the second and third days of his trip, he visited Erfurt in eastern Germany. It was here in the 16th century that the founder of the Reformation, Martin Luther, had lived and taught.
The Pope said his meeting with Lutheran leaders had been “cordial” and that it led them “more profoundly to Christ.” It reminded them all, he said, of “the importance of our common witness of faith in Jesus Christ in today’s world, which often ignores God or has no interest in him.”
However, he said he had also used his meeting to make clear that there was still no possibility of inter-communion between the Church and the Lutherans, as “neither the faith or unity so longed for are a product of our own,” adding that “a faith created by ourselves is of no value, and true unity is rather a gift from God, who prayed and prayed for the unity of his disciples.”
Before leaving Erfurt, the Pope made time to meet with some victims of clerical abuse, to whom he had expressed his “regret” and “participation in their suffering.”
The last leg of the Pope’s visit to Germany took him to the Catholic stronghold of Freiburg. There, he presided over a prayer vigil for young Catholics, who “with the grace of Christ,” he said today, “can bring the fire of God’s love into the world.”
Finally, Pope Benedict touched upon his meeting with Catholics involved in German civil society, which was held in Freiburg on the final day of his visit. He said he told them that times of persecution can often purify the Church, as she can be “free from material and political burdens in order to be more transparent to God.”
Pope Benedict said he was “deeply grateful to all who have contributed in various ways to the success of the visit” to Germany. He concluded his weekly audience by imparting his apostolic blessing.