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Benedict XVI receives German Chancellor ahead of Pontiff's trip to homeland

.- Pope Benedict XVI visited with German Chancellor Angela Merkel today at his summer residence, Castelgandolfo.  The two reportedly discussed current situations in the Middle East and the mounting tensions surrounding Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Merkel told Deutsche Welle that she and Benedict, “had a very intense exchange on world politics, especially on the Middle East, but also on how the international community should deal with Iran.”  

"I was longing to pay this visit to the pope before he comes to Germany in September," Merkel said prior to the visit.  "I'm very glad that it will happen now…I'm also here to express the respect of all Germans which I represent as German chancellor."

The Chancellor told reporters that the hour-long audience was, "very impressive."

Merkel has had one prior meeting with the Pope, when she was head of the Christian Democratic Union Party, a party with strong ties to German Catholics.  

While Merkel was raised in a Protestant northern German family – her mother is a Protestant minister – she and Benedict are said to get along very well.

“The pope is a great leader of Christianity to which my protestant faith also belongs,” Merkel said.

Merkel, whose educational background is in physics, reportedly maintains a strong Christian faith. “I pray because it gives me an opportunity to contemplate,” Deutsche Welle reported her as saying. “Our faith makes us aware of the fact that many things are beyond the powers of human beings. But the Christian faith also moves the dignity of human life onto centre stage giving the religion a crucial role in present-day life.”

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