National Catholic Register

Inperson

‘We Had Peter’s Successor in Our Midst’

Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller knows the Pope.

BY EDWARD PENTIN

September 24-30, 2006 Issue | Posted 9/25/06 at 9:00 AM

 

The Regensburg, Germany 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 Sept. 13.

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 Pentin.

 

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 evangelization.

       

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 Pope?

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 Germany, 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 man.

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 mean?

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

Regensburg, Germany.