2 PAPAL VISIT TO GERMANY
SEPTEMBER 30 2011 THE CATHOLIC HERALD
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Pope: God is basis of western progress
POPE ADDRESSES THE BUNDESTAG BY JOHN THAVIS
ARRIVING in Germany for a four-day visit, Pope Benedict XVI strongly defended the Church’s voice in public affairs and said that to dismiss religious values as irrelevant would “dismember our culture”.
In a major address to the German parliament last Thursday the Pope said belief in God was the foundation for western progress in law and social justice through the centuries.
He said: “The conviction that there is a creator God is what gave rise to the idea of human rights, the idea of the equality of all people before the law, the recognition of the inviolability of human dignity in every single person and the awareness of people’s responsibility for their actions.”
It was Benedict XVI’s third trip as Pope to his homeland but his first state visit and his first foray outside Germany’s Catholic strongholds. Parts of the country are extremely secularised and the German Catholic Church has been strained by contentious internal debates.
Answering questions from reporters on his flight from Rome the Pope said he recognised that an increasing number of Catholics in Germany were leaving the Church. Some, he said, were motivated by revelations of “terrible” scandals, a reference to clerical sex abuse cases that have come to light over the past two years.
The Pope said he could understand their feelings. But he said that if they accepted the Church as the “people of God” and not as a typical social organisation, Catholics should “withstand and work against these scandals, precisely because they are on the inside”. When the Pope stepped off his plane in Berlin, the German capital, he was greeted by President Christian Wulff and Chancellor Angela
Merkel. The Pope smiled as a boy and a girl presented him with a bouquet of flowers.
A small group of Catholics cheered on the edge of the tarmac and cannons boomed out a 21-gun salute.
At a welcoming ceremony at Bellevue Palace, the presidential residence, the Pope was applauded by nearly 1,000 civil dignitaries and ecclesiastical leaders. He said he had come to Germany primarily “to meet people and to speak about God”.
He said that religious indifference was leading people to focus on individualistic and materialistic goals, losing sight of their “responsibility before God and before one another”.
The world needs “a profound cultural renewal and the rediscovery of fundamental values upon which to build a better future”, he said.
In his own speech to the Pope Mr Wulff, 52, said that the Church’s message was needed in society even if it was not always easy to hear. The economic crisis had left many Germans searching for meaning in their lives, he said, and the Church is in a position to offer answers.
Mr Wulff added that the Church itself was challenged by important questions: “How compassionately will it treat points of rupture in the lives of individuals? How will it approach points of rupture in its own history or the wrongdoing of members of its clergy?”
Mr Wulff, a Catholic, is divorced and civilly remarried. He had told newspapers that he would ask the Pope to be more understanding towards people in that situation.
In his address to the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament, Pope Benedict offered a classic defence of Christianity as a protector and promoter of social justice. Justice means knowing and doing what is right, he said, and Germany’s Nazi past illustrates that without justice, the state becomes “a highly organised band of robbers, capable of threatening the whole world and driving it
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Nazis rejected God, says Benedict XVI
Benedict XVI and the German President Christian Wulff at a welcoming ceremony at Bellevue Palace CNS photo to the edge of the abyss”. Today, he said, when man has acquired previously inconceivable power, the threat is even more dramatic.
“Man can destroy the world. He can manipulate himself. He can, so to speak, make human beings and he can deny them their humanity,” he said.
The Pope said that while majority rule worked for many political matters it was not enough when fundamental issues of human dignity were at stake. In that context, he noted that Christian resistance to certain legal systems had a strong tradition, including resistance movements against the Nazis and other totalitarian regimes.
In general, he said, Christianity has always tried to help people to recognise what is right, not by proposing a revealed body of law to the state, but by pointing to nature and reason as the true sources of law, rooted in the “creative reason of God”. The danger today is that ethics and religion are considered “subjective” and no longer valid, overshadowed by a “purely functional” concept of nature, he said. This has cut Europe off from the sources of its own culture, he said.
The Pope said the ecological movement in Germany reflected an awareness, especially among young people, that “something is wrong with our relationship with nature”. He said there was a need for an “ecology of man” that recognises that recognises that “man does not create himself”.
It was the first time Pope Benedict had addressed a parliamentary body. The speech was boycotted by dozens of politicians who claimed that it violated the separation of Church and state. ................................................ Full text: Page 5
Believers ought to work together to protect family and life, says Pope
BENEDICT XVI MEETS MUSLIMS BY CINDY WOODEN
BELIEVERS in God have a contribution to make toward building a better world marked by respect for each human being, Benedict XVI told representatives of Germany’s Muslim communities last Friday.
The Pope said: “As believers, setting out from our respective convictions, we can offer an important witness in many key areas of life in society”, including “the protection of the family based on marriage, respect for life in every phase of its natural course or the promotion of greater social justice”.
He met 15 Muslim representatives in a small meeting room at the apostolic nunciature in Berlin.
Officials of the German bishops’ conference said they tried to invite people who could represent the variety present among the almost 4.5 million Muslims living in Germany. About 70 per cent of the country’s Muslims are of Turkish origin. The others come from Arabic countries, the Balkans and Iran.
Pope Benedict said the importance many Muslims give the role of religion in their lives was thought-provoking in a country that “tends to marginalise religion or, at most, to assign it a place among the individual’s personal choices”.
The Pope meets Ali Dere, professor of Islamic theology at Bonn university AP photo
While real differences exist between Muslims and Christians, he said, mutual respect also exists and grows where believers meet one another and work together to promote and protect the dignity of each human being and other basic ethical values.
“It is inconceivable, in fact, that a society could survive in the long term without consensus on fundamental ethical values,” the Pope said.
Pope Benedict told the Muslim leaders that he convoked a large interreligious meeting for peace in Assisi on October 27 to reiterate the important role religion can play in modern society.
“Through this gathering, we wish to express, with simplicity, that we believers have a special contribution to make toward building a better world, while acknowledging that if our actions are to be effective, we need to grow in dialogue and mutual esteem,” he said.
Mouhanad Khorchide, a Lebanese-born professor of Islam at the University of Münster, spoke on behalf of the Muslim leaders and encouraged greater exchanges between Catholic and Muslim theologians so they could help their followers to recognise values they hold in common. While Christians would describe God’s primary attribute as love and Muslims would use the term “mercy,” both believe that they have a religious obligation to reflect those attributes in the way they live and treat others, he said.
“God, therefore, reveals himself in love and mercy experienced and lived here and now in this world,” he said.
Professor Khorchide said that love and mercy were the criteria by which Christians and Muslims discern whether something is good and godly.
POPE SPEAKS TO JEWISH LEADERS BY CINDY WOODEN
THE NAZI “reign of terror” showed the depths of evil that men are capable of when they deny God and the dignity of all people he created, Benedict XVI has told leaders of Germany’s Jewish community.
Speaking to Jewish representatives in a meeting room in the Reichstag, which houses the German parliament, the Pope spoke about the need to remember the horror of the Shoah, the importance of Catholic-Jewish dialogue and the need for all believers in God to work together to bring moral values to society.
The Reichstag is a place of “appalling remembrance”, the Pope said, because it was in the parliament building that “the Shoah, the annihilation of our Jewish fellow citizens in Europe, was planned and organised”.
The number of Jews in Germany today is estimated at about 105,000, most of whom emigrated from the former Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War.
The activity of Germany’s 108 Jewish communities is coordinated by the Central Council of Jews in Germany, which was founded in 1950 – a time when the country’s Jewish community numbered only about 15,000 members.
According to the council, there were between 500,000 and 600,000 Jews in Germany in the early 1930s. As the Nazis enacted progressively more restrictive laws, thousands of Jews fled.
Pope Benedict said: “The Nazi reign of terror was based on a racist myth, part of which was the rejection of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Jesus Christ and all who believe in him.
“The supposedly ‘almighty’ Adolf Hitler was a pagan idol who wanted to take the place of the biblical God, the creator and father of all men,” the Pope said.
The result of the Nazi attempt to replace God was horrific, he said.
“Refusal to heed this one God always makes people heedless of human dignity as well,” the Pope said. He said the “terrible images from the concentration camps at the end of the war” showed “what man is capable of when he rejects God and what the face of a people can look like when it denies this God”.
Pope Benedict renewed the Church’s commitment to dialogue at a time when some Jewish leaders have expressed concerns over the Pope reaching out to the Society of St Pius X, which questions many teachings of the Second Vatican Council, particularly regarding relations with other Christians and other religions.
The Pope quoted a remark he made last year when he visited Rome’s main synagogue. He said that with the Second Vatican Council an “irrevocable commitment to pursue the path of dialogue, fraternity and friendship” had been made.
Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews, told the Pope that Jews were concerned about the Vatican’s rapprochement with traditionalists. In a text he distributed but did not read, he said the SSPX “in our view still stands for fanaticism, fundamentalism, racism and antiSemitism”. One of the group’s leaders, Bishop Richard Williamson, has been convicted of denying the Holocaust.
In his prepared text Mr Graumann wrote that 50 years of progress in Catholic-Jewish dialogue had laid a firm foundation for the partners in dialogue to be honest with one another, which is why he felt free to bring to the Pope his concerns about the traditionalists and about the possible beatification of Pope Pius XII, whom many believe did not speak forcefully enough in defence of the Jews during World War II.
Pope Benedict also told the group: “It seems to me that we Christians must also become increasingly aware of our own inner affinity with Judaism.”
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