Over 300,000 people attended mass celebrated by Pope Benedict at Islinger Field in Regensburg, Germany on a cloudless Tuesday morning. “He Who Believes Is Never Alone” would not only be the entrance hymn, but also the main theme for the ceremony.
Applause erupted sporadically throughout the Mass, but none rivaled the overwhelming jubilation emitted by the crowd when Pope Benedict arrived at Islinger Field. The location was beautifully engineered to allow a Mass of this magnitude to transpire.
With eight large screen monitors placed strategically through the arching rows of seating, all in attendance were able to view the Holy Father as he celebrated Mass on this, the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary. On his fourth day in Germany, Pope Benedict was welcomed by Regensburg’s Bishop, Gerhard Ludwig Müller, with the words, “You are Peter…in the name of all in attendance we greet you.”
Under the cover of a graceful white canopy Pope Benedict began his homily with many statements of gratitude to the people of Regensburg, who worked hard to prepare for the Mass and even did some work on his house. Many in Regensburg know Pope Benedict personally from when he was a professor there.
The Holy Father then posed a few questions to the assembly, “We are gathered for a celebration of faith. But the question immediately arises: What do we actually believe? What does it mean to have faith? Is it still something possible in the modern world?”
With rolling hills surrounding him, Pope Benedict explained that despite the apparent complications and arguments of theology, “…deep down, it is quite simple. The Lord tells us so when he says to the Father: ‘you have revealed these things to the simple - to those able to see with their hearts’ (cf. Mt 11:25). The Church, for her part, has given us a little Summa in which everything essential is expressed. It is the so-called ‘Apostles’ Creed."
The Holy Father went on to say, “We believe in God. This is what the main sections of the Creed affirm.” But, he continued, “it is important to state clearly the God in whom we believe, and to proclaim confidently that this God has a human face.”
And, the Pope continued, at our Baptism our faith becomes more than just a theory; it is “a genuine encounter between God and man… Truly, those who believe are never alone. God comes to meet us. Let us go out to meet God and so meet one another! To the extent we can, let us make sure that none of God’s children ever feels alone!”
The Holy Father then went back to his earlier question about faith and science, “We believe in God…But is such a thing still possible today?...Science, at least in part, has applied itself to seeking an explanation of the world in which God would be unnecessary. And if this were so, he would also become unnecessary in our lives.”
In searching for an answer, Benedict said, “we end up with two alternatives.” Something came first, “Creative Reason, the Spirit who makes all things and gives them growth, or Unreason, which, lacking any meaning, still somehow brings forth a mathematically ordered cosmos, as well as man and his reason.”
“Faith is, always and inseparably, hope: the certainty that we have a future and will not end up as nothing.” He went on to say, “when God is subtracted, something doesn’t add up for man, the world, the whole vast universe…as Christians, we say: "I believe in God the Father, the Creator of heaven and earth" - I believe in the Creator Spirit. We believe that at the beginning of everything is the eternal Word, with Reason and not Unreason. With this faith we have no reason to hide, no fear of ending up in a dead end.”
The Holy Father concluded his homily, touching on the significance of the feast day, “may we too receive Mary as the lodestar guiding our lives, introducing us into the great family of God! Truly, those who believe are never alone!”
Inspired by Pope Benedict’s words, applause yet again arose from the large congregation.
Later today the Pope will hold a conference with professors at University of Regensburg and celebrate Vespers in the city’s cathedral.