.- Pope Benedict XVI used his departure from German soil to reflect upon his four-day state visit to his homeland and to express confidence in the future of Christianity there.
“I encourage the Church in Germany to pursue with resolute confidence the path of faith which leads people back to their roots, to the heart of the Good News of Christ,” said the Pope at Lahr Airport on Sept. 25.
Pope Benedict said that he hoped the past four days would reverse the societal trend of the past few decades to “remove religion from people’s lives.”
“This gives me confidence for the future of Christianity in Germany. As in previous visits, it was clear how many people here are bearing witness to their faith and making its transforming power present in today’s world.”
He said that he had particular cause for optimism given the presence of “large numbers of young people” at Saturday’s youth vigil in Freiburg.
At the airport he received a farewell from German President Christian Wulff, who was accompanied by the country's civil and religious leaders.
Reflecting upon his four-day state visit, Pope Benedict outlined his personal highlights. He mentioned his opportunity to address the Bundestag and present “some reflections on the intellectual foundations of the state.”
He also said that building bridges with other Christian churches, communities and non-Christian faiths had meant a great deal to him.
“Here in the land of the Reformation, Christian unity was naturally a high point of my journey. I would mention in particular my meeting with representatives of the Lutheran Church in Germany, which took place in the former Augustinian convent of Erfurt,” said the Pope.
“I am profoundly grateful for our fraternal exchange and common prayer. Significant too were my meetings with Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians, as well with Jews and Muslims.”
The past four days have constituted Pope Benedict’s first state visit to Germany. His previous two visits since his 2005 election to the papacy were made in a pastoral capacity.
Predictions of protest and lack of interest prior to this weekend’s visit have largely proved unfounded. Both crowds and public support exceeded the hopes of the organizers.
“With vivid memories of these days spent in my native land, I now return to Rome,” the Pope concluded before boarding the plane that would take him back the Vatican.
“With the assurance of my prayers for all of you, and for a future of peace and freedom for our country, I bid you farewell with a heartfelt ‘Vergelt’s Gott’: May God reward you. God bless you all!”