Page 3, 15th September 2006

15th September 2006
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Page 3, 15th September 2006 — The Pope offers hope to sceptical compatriots

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Locations: Munich, Rome, Frankfurt


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The Pope offers hope to sceptical compatriots

Holy Father meditates on the mystery of creation as he seeks to provide Catholics with an 'apologia' so they can confront the challenges of a scientific age



Anna Arco Bavarian diary

So HUGE is Regensburg's Islinger Field that it was hard to see the popemobile as it crept slowly around the crowd of 260,000 pilgrims.

The size of the vast "papal lawns", which only a year ago were cultivated farmland, allowed the Holy Father to spend half an hour greeting pilgrims before celebrating his third open-air Mass of the Bavaria trip.

His Mercedes popemobile, shimmering under the hot sun that has followed the Pope since Rome, arrived at the foot of the altar to wild cheers and applause.

Pilgrims' chants were drowned out by the now customary grand fanfare and drum roll a rousing introduction reminiscent of the heralding of a medieval king to a medieval court.

Once lowered from the popemobile, Benedict XVI climbed the steps of the altar, occasionally waving to the cheering crowds.

Waiting for him were an array of Regensburg priests and religious, and his brother Georg, dressed in a beige cassock.

The specially composed processional hymn "WeiGlaubt ist Nie Allein" (the motto of his pilgrimage "Whoever believes is never alone") boomed out from loudspeakers.

Pilgrims of all ages followed the proceedings on large screens. Many had arrived in the early hours and had been sustained on a diet of free bananas, granola bars and fizzy apple water, courtesy of Regensburg City Council.

A large number of young pilgrims had been here since midnight, camping out in tents in order to meditate and sing hymns in honour of the Holy Father.

Pilgrims of different nationalities had also made the journey: Dutch. Croatians and a large number of Poles cheered on the Holy Father, holding their nations' flags.

They were vastly outnumbered, however, by others waving the yellow and white of the Vatican flag or the blue-and-white chequered emblem of Bavaria.

Most pilgrims had come to see the Pope, to pray together, or to renew their faith. Others had made the trip for other motives: for one Luxembourg gentleman, the Mass was a birthday gift to his motherin-law.

Like every town included in the papal itinerary, Regensburg was brought to a standstill. Most citizens took the day off work; Bavarian schoolchildren were given an extra day's holiday. Security was extremely tight. The only real danger was, of slipping on the abundance of banana skins.

The Archbishop of Regensburg, Gerhard Ludwig Mailer, was the first to speak. He greeted the Holy Father warmly under a 50ft-high white canopy.

To his left stood a gigantic. recently erected 10-tonne cross of about the same height.

Throughout the Pope's visit the liturgy had been rich and traditional, and today was no different. Well-known hymns from the German hymnal and Kyries and Glorias from the Renaissance were the order of the day.

There were no guitars, beating of drums, or treacly music, but stirring ancient and modem hymns chosen for their reverence and depth. And, as at previous Masses. the choir and orchestra performed to such a high standard one could almost have been listening to the London Philharmonic.

In his homily the Pope reiterated his argument against a philosophy that relies on science.

"When God is subtracted, something does not add up for man, the world, the whole vast universe," he said.

The Pope also suggested that the concept of a cosmos constructed solely on mathematic probability was unrealistic.

The Holy Father again tried to reach out to a people inclined to mock and deride the faith.

He reasserted that many of his countrymen, despite their scepticism, would like to believe, but did not know how. His mission, as he sees it, is to try to tell them how.

"He wants to give everyone the courage to begin again the dialogue between faith and reason," said Fr Paulus Terwitte, a Capuchin friar from Frankfurt after the Mass. "He is showing to bishops and priests how they have to preach this is the most important aspect in my view."

Fr Terwitte added that the Pope is trying to equip the faithful with an apologia, a way to effectively spread the Gospel to people who, especially in Germany, think that belief in God is "abnormal".

It took a little more than 15 minutes for an army of 15,000 Eucharistic ministers and assistants, sheltered under yellow and white umbrellas, to spread out through the crowd and distribute Holy Communion.

The pilgrims received the Holy Father's blessing and sang a well-known German hymn. Slowly people made their way home, to the sound of a group of Poles dancing and singing to an African

drum. The crowd dispersed through cornfields, woods and lush green meadows.

Whether the Pope's words fell on equally fertile ground, only time will tell.

Later that day, in a lecture at Regensburg University, where he taught theology between 1969 and 1977, Pope Benedict said that Christianity is tightly linked to reason and contrasted this view with those who use violence in the name of God. The 79-yearold Pontiff was referring to Islamic terrorism. He used the terms "jihad" and "holy war". "Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul," he said.

Benedict XVI repeated that spreading the faith through violence is unreasonable and that acting without logos (reason) was against God's nature. The Pope ended his talk with an invitation to Muslims to enter into dialogue with the Catholic Church. "It is to this great

logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures," he said.

Fr Notker Wolf, Abbot Primate of the Benedictines, said that the speech "will be seen in the newspapers as an attack against Islam, but in reality it was an attack against the western mentality."

The Abbot Primate said that the Pope's message to Muslims was that "we can work together to fight for the sacred".

A FLASH of yellow and white caught my eye a few days before Benedict XVI's expected arrival in Munich last Saturday. A souped-up, low-riding Volkswagen Golf cruised through our village in lower Bavaria, subwoofers booming, and Vatican flags fluttering from the windows, where only a few months earlier German flags had waved for the football. Before long almost every other car in the village sported such a display. The Pope is coming. Our Pope is coming.

Saturday: Popemania reached a new pitch. Despite warnings from clerics across the state not to turn the Pope's visit into a cult of personality, pictures of Benedict XVI were plastered in house windows. It seemed as though every bookshop and supermarket carried at least one copy of the commemorative book on Benedict XVI's visit, My Heart is Bavarian.

When he landed on Saturday afternoon we were glued to our televisions. Horst Kohler, the German president and a Lutheran, greeted him at the airport and expressed the hope that the Pope's visit would bring a closer understanding between Protestants and Catholics in the land of the Reformation. The Pope's reply, remarkable in a country still very divided by religion, was off the script and from the heart. "We will make the effort with our hearts and our reason to find our way to each other," he said.

Sunday: "The atmosphere here is incredible," read a 7am text message from a friend who was already waiting on the field for the big papal Mass in Munich, Almost immediately after Mass at home, we were in front of the television again. The Pope greeted his flock with the typical Bavarian "Griissgott" ("God greet you") but it became clear that this was more than a sentimental homecoming. He had a

serious and somewhat severe message for his compatriots in Germany's Catholic heartland. These times, he said, are characterised by a certain deafness to God. The social aspects of the Church, especially Third World aid to which German Catholics are some of the Church's greatest contributors, are too often separated from the spiritual aspects. While preaching tolerance and respect for other religions, in keeping with his comments to Kohler, he urged us to be more open with our faith and evangelise.

Monday: For days I had been checking my ticket to make sure it hadn't vanished, and now I was on the square in Altotting, Bavaria's most significant shrine to Our Lady, in the company of some 60,000 other pilgrims. Bavaria's senior politicians sat in the front row, a token of the close relations which still exist here between Church and State. A sea of purple and black spread to my right where the auxiliary bishops, the cathedral canons, and the abbots and abbesses sat.

When the Pope arrived, everyone was singing, dancing and cheering. He exuded love, solemnity and gentleness there was nothing strict or shy about him. Later, over lunch, a family friend who has known Joseph Ratzinger since his Regensburg days, said: "He was a theologian who found pastoral duties difficult. He has overcome those difficulties: now he is truly a bishop."

During Mass, the Pope's message was simple and kind: Mary's love and humility should serve us as a daily example. After consecration, Benedict XVI stood in silence for a long time, taking in the familiar Square of his childhood and the people in it. It was a poignant moment, in light of speculations that this may have been his last visit home. That evening he went to Markt] am Inn, his birthplace.

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