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WEEKLY CATECHESIS

Pope Benedict Reflects on His Visit to Bavaria

BY John Lilly

October 1-7, 2006 Issue | Posted 9/27/06 at 11:00 AM

 

Register Summary

More than 40,000 pilgrims attended Pope Benedict XVI’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 20. He dedicated his audience to commenting on his recent apostolic trip to Bavaria.

The Holy Father said that his trip was not simply “a return to the past, but also a providential opportunity to look to the future with hope.” The motto of his visit, “Those who believe are never alone,” he said “was meant to be an invitation to reflect on the fact that every baptized person belongs to the one Church of Christ, within which we are never alone, but in constant communion with God and with all our brothers and sisters.”

During his address, Pope Benedict XVI recalled the highlights of his trip, which included visits to Munich, where he was ordained a bishop, to Altötting, one of Germany’s leading Marian shrines, to Regensburg, where he taught for many years at the university, and to Freising, where he was ordained a priest.

Recalling his visit to Regensburg, where he gave a lecture on faith and reason, Pope Benedict XVI once again expressed his regret for the misunderstandings that were stirred up among Muslims after he quoted the 14th-century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II. “Unfortunately, this quotation has lent itself to misunderstanding. To the attentive reader of my text, however, it is clear that I did not wish in any way for the negative words that this medieval emperor spoke in this dialogue to be my own and that its controversial content does not express my personal conviction. My intention was very different,” he said. “I wished to explain that not religion and violence, but religion and reason, go together,” he explained. “I hope that during other moments of my visit — when, for example, I emphasized in Munich the importance of respecting what is sacred for others — that my deep respect for the great religions emerged in a clear way, especially for Muslims, who ‘adore the one God’ and with whom we are committed to ‘preserving as well as promoting together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.’”




Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, I would like to recall some moments of the pastoral trip that the Lord allowed me to make last week to Bavaria. In sharing with you the emotions and feelings I experienced as I returned to those places that I love dearly, I feel the need, first of all, to thank God for having made possible this second visit to Germany — and, for the first time, to Bavaria, my native land. Also, I am sincerely grateful to all those who worked with dedication and patience — bishops, priests, pastoral workers, public authorities, organizers, security forces and volunteers — so that each one of the events would proceed in the best way possible. As I said upon my arrival at the airport in Munich on Saturday, Sept. 9, the purpose of the trip — as I remembered all those who contributed to my formation — was to reaffirm and confirm, as the successor of the Apostle Peter, the close bonds that unite the See of Rome with the Church in Germany. Therefore, my trip was not simply a “return” to the past, but also a providential opportunity to look to the future with hope. “Those who believe are never alone.” The motto of the visit was meant to be an invitation to reflect on the fact that every baptized person belongs to the one Church of Christ, within which we are never alone but in constant communion with God and with all our brothers and sisters.

Munich

My first stop was in Munich, which is known as “the metropolis with a heart” (Weltstadt mit Herz). The Marienplatz, Mary’s Square, is located in its historical center, dominated by the Mariensäule, Mary’s Column, at the top of which there is a gilded bronze statue of Mary. I wanted to begin my visit to Bavaria by paying homage to the Patroness of Bavaria, who holds a very special significance for me. There, in that square and before that image of Mary, I was welcomed as archbishop some 30 years ago and I began my mission as a bishop with a prayer to Mary. And there I returned at the end of my mandate, before leaving for Rome.

This time, I wanted to place myself once again at the foot of the Mariensäule in order to implore the Mother of God to bless and intercede not only for the city of Munich and for Bavaria, but for the whole Church and the entire world. The following day, Sunday, I celebrated the Eucharist on the esplanade of Munich’s Neue Messe (New Trade Fair Center), among the faithful who had gathered in great numbers from different areas. Guided by the Gospel passage of the day, I reminded everyone that we suffer, especially today, from a certain “hardness of hearing” God. As Christians who live in a secularized world, we have a duty to proclaim and give witness to all people the message of hope that faith offers us: in Jesus, who was crucified, God, our merciful Father, calls us to be his children and to overcome every form of hatred and violence in order to contribute to the ultimate triumph of love.

“Make Us Strong in the Faith” was the theme of my meeting on Sunday afternoon with some children who were making their first Communion and their young families, along with the catechists and all the other pastoral workers who are working together for evangelization in the Diocese of Munich. We celebrated vespers together in its historic cathedral, known as “Our Lady’s Cathedral,” where the relics of St. Benno, the patron of the city, are kept and where I was ordained a bishop in 1977. I reminded both the children and the adults alike that God is not distant from us somewhere in the universe beyond our reach. On the contrary, he drew near to us in Jesus in order to establish a relationship of friendship with each one of us. Thanks to the ongoing commitment of its members, every Christian community, especially the parish, is called to be a large family, able to advance in unity on the path of true life.

Monday, Sept. 11, was devoted for the most part to a visit to Altötting, in the Diocese of Passau. This small city is known as the “heart of Bavaria” (Herz Bayerns). It is there that the “Black Virgin” is kept, which is venerated in the Gnadenkapelle (the Chapel of Graces) and is the focus for numerous pilgrimages from Germany and the nations of Central Europe. The Capuchin monastery of St. Anne is nearby, where St. Konrad Birndorfer lived, who was canonized by my venerated predecessor, Pope Pius XI, in the year 1934.

With the multitude of faithful present for the holy Mass that was celebrated in the square in front of the shrine, we reflected together on Mary’s role in the work of salvation in order to learn from her the virtues of helpful kindness, humility and generous acceptance of God’s will. Mary leads us to Jesus. This truth was made even more visible at the end of the divine sacrifice, by the procession in which we went with the statue of the Virgin Mary to the new Eucharistic Adoration Chapel (Anbetungskapelle) that was inaugurated for this occasion. The day closed with solemn vespers to Mary in the Basilica of St. Anne of Altötting in the presence of the religious men and women and seminarians of Bavaria, along with members of the vocations office.

Three important meetings took place the following day, Tuesday, in Regensburg, a diocese established by St. Boniface in 739 with St. Wolfgang as its patron. In the morning during holy Mass in Islinger Feld, we once again took up the theme of the pastoral visit, “Those who believe are never alone,” and reflected on the content of the symbol of faith. God, who is Father, wishes to gather together through Jesus Christ all of mankind in one single family, the Church. For this reason, those who believe are never alone; those who believe need not be afraid of ending up in a dead end.

Later, in the afternoon, I went to the cathedral of Regensburg, which is also known for its boys choir, the Domspatzen (Sparrows of the Cathedral), which takes pride in its 1,000 years of activity and which was directed by my brother, Georg, for 30 years.

An ecumenical celebration of vespers took place there, in which numerous representatives from different churches and church communities in Bavaria took part, along with members of the Ecumenical Commission of the German Bishops’ Conference. It was a providential opportunity to pray together that full unity among all Christ’s disciples will be hastened and to emphasize our duty to proclaim our faith in Jesus Christ in a total and clear manner without toning it down and, above all, by conducting ourselves with sincere love.

It was an especially beautiful experience for me that day to give a lecture to a large audience of professors and students at the University of Regensburg, where I taught as a professor for many years. With joy, I was able to have an encounter once again with the university world, which was my spiritual home during a long period of my life. As my topic, I chose the theme of the relationship between faith and reason. In order to introduce the audience to the dramatic nature and the timely importance of the subject, I quoted some words from a Christian-Muslim dialogue of the 14th century, in which the Christian — the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus — presented to his Muslim interlocutor, in a way that we find incomprehensibly brusque, the problem of the relationship between religion and violence. Unfortunately, this quotation has lent itself to misunderstanding.

To the attentive reader of my text, however, it is clear that I did not wish in any way for the negative words that this medieval emperor spoke in this dialogue to be my own and that its controversial content does not express my personal conviction. My intention was very different. Based on what Manuel II said afterwards in a very positive sense and with very beautiful words concerning the rationality that must guide us in transmitting the faith, I wished to explain that not religion and violence, but religion and reason, go together. The topic of my lecture — responding to the mission of the university — was, then, the relationship between faith and reason. I wished to call for a dialogue of the Christian faith with the modern world and for a dialogue between all cultures and religions.

I hope that during other moments of my visit — when, for example, I emphasized in Munich the importance of respecting what is sacred for others — that my deep respect for the great religions emerged in a clear way, especially for Muslims, who “adore the one God” and with whom we are committed to “preserving as well as promoting together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom” (Nostra Aetate, No. 3). I trust, therefore, that following the initial reactions, my words at the University of Regensburg may constitute a stimulus and an encouragement towards a positive and also self-critical dialogue both among religions and between modern reason and Christian faith.

The following morning, Sept. 13, in the Alte Kapelle (Old Chapel) of Regensburg, in which a miraculous image of Mary is kept that was painted, according to local tradition, by Luke the Evangelist, I presided over a brief liturgy for the blessing of the new organ. Drawing inspiration from the structure of this musical instrument, which is made up of many pipes of different dimensions that are all very well-harmonized among themselves, I reminded those present that all the various ministries, gifts and charisms in the Church community need to come together under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in order to form a single harmony of praise to the Lord and of love for the brethren.

My last stop, on Thursday, Sept. 14, was the city of Freising. I feel a special bond with this city since I was ordained a priest in its cathedral, which is dedicated to Mary Most Holy and St. Corbinian, who evangelized Bavaria. The last meeting in the program was held in the cathedral — a meeting with the priests and permanent deacons. Reliving the excitement of my own priestly ordination, I reminded those present of the need to collaborate with the Lord to stir up new vocations to serve the “harvest,” which today is “plentiful,” and I exhorted them to cultivate the interior life as a pastoral priority in order not to lose contact with Christ, our source of joy amid the daily toil of ministry.

During the farewell ceremony, when once again I thanked all those who had cooperated in order to make my visit possible, I again confirmed its main purpose: to put forth once again to my fellow countrymen the eternal truths of the Gospel and to confirm believers as they follow Christ, the Son of God who became man and who died and rose for us. May Mary, the Mother of the Church, help us to open our hearts and minds to the one who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:16). I have prayed for this and it is for this that I invite you all, dear brothers and sisters, to continue praying. I thank you for the love with which you support me in my daily pastoral ministry. Thank you all.

(Register translation)