Benedict’s Homecoming Touches Bavarian Hearts and Minds
Clearly delighted with Pope Benedict XVI’s visit, the Bavarian cardinal described the papal visit to reporters as “beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.”
For the Pope himself, speaking at Munich airport as he departed Sept. 14 under the hot sun that had remained with him all the way from Rome, it was a very emotional homecoming.
“I was deeply moved by the enthusiasm and fervent devotion of the faithful who gathered to listen to the Word of God and to join in prayer,” he said. “God be with you, land of the Bavarian people, German soil, my native land!” he said in closing. “Upon your vast borders may his hand rest in blessing!”
As a parting word of advice, the Holy Father suggested Germans would benefit from taking a new look at Pope John Paul II’s 1981 encyclical Laborem Exercens (On Human Work), which was published on the same day 25 years ago.
On this trip, Benedict had two goals: Thanking those who had influenced and helped him in the land of his birth, and communicating the Gospel in a way that will help his skeptical German countrymen rediscover the faith of their ancestors.
Observers suggested he had accomplished both objectives.
“Even for those who are not spiritual, I am convinced this visit will have lasting and deep effect,” Cardinal Wetter said.
Edmund Stoiber, Minister President of the German state of
Benedict clearly enjoyed the
opportunity to visit his native
“Among all of us who have known
and worked with him over the years, we’ve noticed that he feels much freer than
said Cardinal Christoph Schönborn
But while attention was naturally focused on him during the trip, Benedict sought throughout his apostolic voyage to redirect that attention toward Jesus.
At his first open-air Mass in
“Mary gave over everything to the Lord,” he said. “She taught us how to pray; not to do our will but to turn our will over to the will of God.”
Added Benedict, “Mary and Jesus belong together. With her, we want to stay in conversation with the Lord and so better receive from him and learn from him.”
Almost every available space in Altötting’s small town square was filled with pilgrims, who gave the Pope a colorful and rousing welcome with yellow-white-and-blue scarves and flags.
As bells rang out, the Holy Father made a long walk around the square and spent some time praying to the miraculous statue of the Black Madonna.
“He probably has his most personal
memories here, the place of his childhood and his family,” Bishop Wilhelm Schraml of
While Benedict’s visit to Altötting coincided with the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, he did not refer to them explicitly in his Marian-focused homily. And leading procession after Mass, he carried a monstrance in a gesture conveying the spiritual lesson that the answers to all human problems are found in the body of Jesus.
“The message was very deep because it was about prayer and listening to the will of God,” said Cardinal Schönborn. “Without mentioning Sept. 11, he gave a very profound message for the way out, and we’re all desperately looking for a way out.”
the Holy Father made a fleeting visit to Marktl am
For many of the 2,700 inhabitants,
the visit was a monumental event. Onlookers crowded doorways and leaned out of
windows to catch a glimpse of their very special fellow townsmen.
The Pope spent only his first two
years in Marktl am
During this visit, he spent 15 minutes in St. Oswald’s Church, praying together with his brother Msgr. Georg Ratzinger at the font where he was baptized. A short drive in the popemobile then took him to the house of his birth.
Looking relaxed and in good humor, the Holy Father made a short walk, waving to a delighted crowd and admiring a monument created in his honor. The visit was the shortest but also perhaps the most poignant of the trip.
The Holy Father then flew to
Before the Mass, his Mercedes popemobile crept slowly around the crowd of 260,000 pilgrims, arriving at the foot of the altar to wild cheers, applause and chants of “Ben-e-det-to!”
Once lowered from the popemobile, Benedict XVI climbed the steps of the altar, where he was greeted by an array of bishops and cardinals from all over the world. The specially composed processional hymn “Wer Glaubt Ist Nie Allein” (“Whoever believes is never alone”) — the motto of his pilgrimage — boomed through loudspeakers.
Like every town on the papal
In his homily, the Holy Father centered on the need to come to know God as he really is, and not as an entity stripped of many of his divine attributes through a rationalistic, scientific analysis.
“It is important to state clearly the God in whom we believe, to proclaim confidently that this God has a human face,” he said. “Only this can free us from being afraid of God — which ultimately is at the root of modern atheism.”
“He wants to give everyone the courage to begin again the dialogue between faith and reason,” Father Paulus Terwitte, a Capuchin friar from Frankfurt, said after the Mass. “And he is showing to bishops and priests how they have to preach — this is the most important aspect in my view.”
said the Pope was indicating an effective way to evangelize in cultures like
Benedict amplified on the same
theme in his talk to scientists at the
The speech gave the Pope, a famed theologian before becoming a bishop, a chance to become a professor once again, placing a mortarboard atop his papal skullcap and delivering a lecture rather than a homily.
Faith cannot exist without reason, and vice-versa, the Holy Father emphasized in his remarks to his academic audience. But the contemporary dependence on science has led to a false notion of a God without reason, he said.
Such an intellectual diminishing of God, which strips Christian theology from its Greek intellectual roots, compromises humanity’s capacity for moral judgment and ethics, Benedict said. It also gives rise to a false understanding of God as a subjective being with an arbitrary will.
Ultimately, the Pope said, this scientific rationalism leads to the exclusion of God from everyday life — an exclusion that less rationalistic cultures find threatening.
“The world’s profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions,” he said. “A reason that is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion in the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into dialogue with cultures.”
Remarks on Islam
In his remarks at the
This perception of God opens the door to the justification of acts of violence committed in his name, such as jihad (holy war), Benedict argued.
“Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul,” he said.
Much of the world’s media — and
many Islamic leaders — subsequently interpreted the Pope’s
“It is the crisis of identity in the West, in particular in Europe, that is the true cause that provokes a clash of civilizations — a thesis the Pope has already expressed,” Italian Sen. Marcello Pera, co-author with Benedict of a book about Europe’s spiritual crisis, told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera Sept. 14.
The final stop of
Benedict’s journey was in Freising, the small town
ahead of schedule Sept. 14 from
Once he had passed by, children scampered down side alleys to catch up with him again as he doubled back and climbed the hill to the ancient church.
Speaking there to priests, deacons and seminarians, the Holy Father spoke optimistically about a resurgence in vocations.
“The fundamental approach of Jesus,” he said, “is one of optimism, based on the confidence in the power of the Father, the ‘Lord of the harvest.’”
The key to inspiring more vocations, he said, is through remaining in “intimate communion with the Lord of the harvest.”
warm Bavarian reception came as a surprise to some Germans. For more than two
decades while he served in
But during his homecoming, Müncheners flocked out in force.
In a survey carried out for Bavarian television, 69% of Bavarians said their faith was helped by the papal visit. Among Bavarian Catholics, 72% said their faith received a boost; among Protestants, the figure was even higher at 74%.
In another sign of
the universality of the Pope’s welcome, predicted protests failed to
materialize. The only moment of trouble occurred when a male teenager broke
free from the crowd during the open-air Mass in
The youth ran to within 100 yards of the Holy Father before he was tackled by security guards. Afterward, police released the teen — described in the German press as a “Pope fanatic” who was desperate to get as close as possible to the Holy Father — with merely a caution.
As Benedict flew
is based in
- September 24-30, 2006