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Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller knows the Pope.
BY EDWARD PENTIN
archbishop was responsible for hosting the longest leg of Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to his Bavarian homeland.
The Pope spent three days in the
diocese, during which he celebrated the largest of his open-air Masses on the
outskirts of Regensburg
Like the Holy Father, Bishop Müller is a professor of dogmatic theology, a subject he
has taught for 16 years. He spoke Sept. 13 with Register correspondent Edward
What have been the highpoints of the Pope’s visit for you?
Of course having the Holy Father
present at the open-air Mass, and the great number of bishops — 1,600 from all
over the world, from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Cologne, from the
English-speaking world, from Australia, France — who came to celebrate.
This shows that we are a great
family in the Church, not only one country but different people from all
countries and cultures coming together to celebrate the sacrifice of Christ.
And in the midst of us, we had the
Successor of Peter, the representative of Christ himself, and the visible head
of the whole Catholic Church. This is very good for us, for our new movement of
The Pope’s homilies were very much trying to reach out to the German
people and Europe where the faith has been in
serious decline. Do you think he has been successful in his endeavor?
Yes, I think so. There were a
great number of people watching through the mass media, especially on
television. There were also many young people who came here.
Many people came to celebrate their faith with the Pope and to listen to
the message he wanted to give, but do you think many also came just to see the
There was a message they wanted to
hear. If people just wanted to see the Pope, they could have simply made a trip
to Rome. Within
it’s just one hour. Many make the journey, so it’s no problem.
One could see, during his
preaching and homilies, that the people were very
focused and open to listening to the Gospel. The Holy Father didn’t refer to
the people or compliment them much, but he did speak to them very seriously and
deeply. He emphasized the importance of preaching the Gospel, the importance of
listening to the Word of God, and taking part in the holy sacraments.
Was there anything in this visit that was unexpected for you?
Personally, no. I’ve known the Holy Father for
over 20 years. I’ve read all the books that he has written.
It was a good experience to see
how the Holy Father, as a professor, an intellectual man, could reach the
hearts of the people. He not only bridged the gap between intellectualism and
populism but he also showed to everyone his deep respect for the dignity of
All are called to be children of
God, and his mission is to convince people of the Christian faith, not to
provide them with entertainment.
He spoke very strongly at the university in Regensburg about the importance of faith and
reason, and how they are necessary for each other. As a dogmatic theologian
yourself, what was your reflection on this discourse?
It was very fundamental because
the modern Western world is coming from Greek literature and philosophy, where
God is not an absolute will without relation to human thinking and moral
principles of metaphysics, principles of theological thinking. We are in danger
of losing these roots of our faith and instead dwelling only on economic
thought, utilitarianism, skepticism or nihilism.
The Holy Father gave his vision
with these deep foundations: our roots in God, that God is reason, or logos, that became flesh, who entered our world. That is how we recognize the dignity
of the human being related to God — a God of the highest value.
We are not only material beings,
or without hope, but there is a transcendence behind all of our lives. If there
isn’t, then God cannot have a relation with us and project a better future of
justice, solidarity or peace.
These aims cannot be reached
unless we recognize these fundamental aspects, which the Pope has tried direct
us to. Simply put: a belief in God.
Some have said that the Pope knows what many Germans need — that they want
to believe but they just don’t know how in this secular age. Is he trying to
show them how, in the simplest way possible?
Yes, he spoke explicitly about
this problem: that we are celebrating faith, but what is faith? What does it
Faith is a concrete reality — to
believe the reality that God acts in favor of human beings: his creation,
salvation, reconciliation. It’s not an idea or an ideology but a reality: his
Word became flesh.
God will change our reality; he
has the power to change it — our bad realities of sin, absence of peace, of
wars — not only military wars but psychological wars as well. There are a lot
of wars between human beings.
Do you think overall the visit has been a success, both in your view and
the Holy Father’s?
A great success, because you could
see that all people came together in a friendly and excited way, expecting to
show their great respect for the Holy Father as a person, and for his mission.
You can see on the faces of
everyone that they’re all deeply affected. They are close to the Holy Father in
their hearts, and they greatly identify with the Church, with Christianity, and
Jesus Christ himself.
Edward Pentin filed
this interview from
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