BY DAVID V BARRETT
POPE BENEDICT XVI issued a powerful call for God to be placed at the centre of German society at the end of his historic four-day visit to his homeland.
In beautiful sunshine under a blue sky the Pope spoke to an estimated 100,000 people at a Mass in Freiburg on the last day of his visit. He urged Catholics to “lift high the torch of untarnished faith”.
“Let us put our trust in God, whose power manifests itself above all in mercy and forgiveness,” Benedict XVI said. “He is always close to us, especially in times of danger and radical change, his heart aches for us and he reaches out to us. We need to open ourselves to him so that the power of his mercy can touch our hearts. We have to be ready to abandon evil, to raise ourselves from indifference and make room for his word. God respects our freedom. He does not constrain us.” This was Pope Benedict’s first state visit to his homeland, though he had previously visited Germany in September 2006 and in August 2005, just five months after becoming Pope. It was also his first visit outside the Catholic strongholds of Germany in the land of the Protestant Reformation.
At the Mass at Freiburg Pope Benedict said the German Church could overcome its challenges and remain a leaven in society “if the priests, consecrated men and women, and the lay faithful, in fidelity to their respective vocations, work together in unity”.
Arriving in Berlin on Thursday last week – the first time he had been in the city as Pope – Benedict XVI said: “I have come primarily to meet people and speak about God.” He was welcomed by Christian Wulff, the president of Germany and a Catholic, and later met Chancellor Angela Merkel, the daughter of a Lutheran minister.
In the afternoon he spoke at the Bundestag, the German parliament, and in the evening celebrated Mass in Berlin’s Olympic stadium.
Addressing the Bundestag the Pope said: “Politics must be a striving for justice, and hence it has to establish the fundamental preconditions for peace. Naturally a politician will seek success, as this is what opens up for him the possi bility of effective political action. Yet success is subordinated to the criterion of justice, to the will to do what is right, and to the understanding of what is right. Success can also be seductive and thus can open up the path towards the falsification of what is right, towards the destruction of justice.” Quoting St Augustine saying: “Without justice, what else is the state but a great band of robbers?” he went on: “We Germans know from our own experience that these words are no empty spectre. We have seen how power became divorced from right, how power opposed right and crushed it, so that the state became an instrument for destroying right – a highly organised band of robbers, capable of threatening the whole world and driving it to the edge of the abyss.” From Berlin, the Pope flew on Friday to Erfurt in central Germany, where Martin Luther lived for 10 years, first as a student and then as an Augustinian friar. At Luther’s friary the Pope praised the Protestant founder for the “deep passion and driving force” of his beliefs.
In the evening the Pope travelled by helicopter to Etzelsbach in Eichsfeld, presiding at Vespers at a Marian shrine which had been under Communist rule until 1990.
Pope Benedict celebrated Mass in the Cathedral Square at Erfurt on Saturday morning, then flew to Freiburg in the south-west.After visiting the cathedral he met former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, a Catholic, before holding meetings with Orthodox bishops, seminarians and the Central Committee of German Catholics. In the evening he led a prayer vigil and the next morning celebrated Mass at Freiburg airport before returning to Rome.
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