Many people in Germany are looking forward to the Pope's Visit, despite the discord that is natural in a secularized society, and legitimate if expressed politely. Benedict XVI was smiling when he met the journalists flying toward the skies above Berlin, as he answered the question about the polemics prior to his Visit. The controversies are common and certainly far from kind, as, on the contrary, the Holy Father shows himself to be in every circumstance. “I am going to my native Germany joyfully and I am glad to be taking Christ's message to my country”, he said, summing up the reason for returning this third time to his homeland. Now for the first time on an official Visit after the trips he made to Cologne and to Bavaria.
While responding to the Federal President's warm and meaningful welcome, the Bishop of Rome reiterated his purpose. Even if, in fact, the Visit strengthens the good relations that exist between Germany and the Holy See, “in the first place”, Benedict XVI said clearly, “I have not come here primarily to pursue particular political or economic goals, as other statesmen do, but rather to meet people and to speak to them about God”. Here, outlined in simple bold strokes, is the reason for the journeys of the Pope, who also knows better than anyone how to address political assemblies in discourses that will live on: from the Address in Westminster Hall to that to his country's Parliament, gathered in the Reichstag.
Born, raised and educated in Germany, the German Pontiff confided that he felt deeply rooted in the culture of this great nation, at whose history — which even includes “dark pages” of the past — he gazes with a “clear look”. Connected to his roots, Benedict XVI said with equal clarity that Baptism leads to a “new people”: the great community of the Catholic Church, which every day in this world is journeying towards the civitas Dei described and longed for by Augustine. It is a journey that has never been easy; nor is it easy today, in a time strongly marked by secularization, even in countries with an ancient Christian tradition.
This trend explains why people leave the Church, the last step in the gradual distancing which in recent times is sometimes motivated by the scandal of the abuse of minors on the part of members of the Catholic clergy. The Pope who is not afraid of wolves spoke once again without reticence of these crimes, saying that he could understand the reason why some people leave. But then he immediately added that it is fundamentally important to ask oneself why one is in the Church.
In fact, one must realize that belonging to the Church is equivalent to being in the net of the Lord, who catches both good and bad fish in the waters of earthly death. And we must learn to see scandals in this perspective and, especially, to fight them.
In our secularized society, where the Transcendent seems remote, it is necessary “to come together” with other Christians and to witness with them the common faith in the triune God and in man who was created in his image.
“Just as religion has need of freedom, so also freedom has need of religion” as Bishop Wilhelm von Ketteler used to say. These words are timely, today too, Benedict XVI recalled, in a Germany reborn from the power of freedom, freedom needs religion: the religion revealed by God, the friend of human beings.
St. Peter’s Square
Feb. 15, 2019
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