Germans should listen to what Pope Benedict XVI has to say to them before passing judgment, says one of the country’s top Catholic bishops. The Pope will begin a four-day visit to his homeland Sept. 22, starting in the capital city of Berlin.
“The Holy Father is going to visit a city in which Christians are a minority and some already have announced protests a long time before his arrival,” noted Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki of Berlin, Sept. 21.
“I once again invite everyone to listen first to what the Pope has to say and then to pass judgment.”
The four-day visit will be Pope Benedict’s third to Germany since being elected pontiff in 2005, although it is his first as the Vatican’s head-of-state.
Already over 100 left-wing politicians have threatened to boycott his address to the German parliament, the Bundestag, on Friday. Social Democrat parliamentarian Ulla Burchardt summed up her opposition Sept. 20, saying, “A head of state who disregards labor rights, women's rights and the right to sexual self-determination should not be allowed to address the Bundestag.”
Meanwhile, the German magazine “Der Spiegel” carried several major article in its latest edition criticizing Pope Benedict for upholding traditional Christian values. “Benedict is not leading his church into an open-minded future, but back into a narrow-minded past,” one story complained.
The respected Vatican-watcher Sandro Magister observed, “in Berlin and Erfurt, Benedict XVI enters into the area of Europe farthest from God. He wants to make it a new mission territory.”
“The former East Germany, together with Estonia and the Czech Republic, is the area of Europe where atheists are most numerous, and the non-baptized are in the majority,” Magister said, summing up much of Germany as a “desert of faith.”
But Archbishop Woekli is certain that while Pope Benedict is going as a head of state, he is also more than an intellectual match for the Church’s critics.
The Pope “also visits Berlin as a great European, and universal intellectual and example of belief. I am convinced that it is worth it to listen to what he has to say, even as a critical mind, even when not everyone agrees with everything.”
As well Berlin, the Pope will also visit Erfurt in eastern Germany - birthplace of the Lutheran Reformation nearly 500 years ago – before visiting Freiburg in the southwest for a prayer vigil with young people. In total, he is scheduled to give 18 sermons and speeches during, this, his 21st foreign trip since becoming Pope.