In an interview with the Kath.net news agency sent to CNA for publication, German Catholic reporter Peter Seewald said the recent papal trip to Germany was a victory for the humility and message of the Pope.
In the interview, Seewald, author of “Light of the World,” described the Pope’s visit as “a small miracle” because “shortly before there was a very aggressive, anti-clerical assault by the media.”
“All of this brings to mind George Orwell’s ‘1984,’ in which an imaginary enemy, a nightmare, is created in order to scare people.” “And yet,” Seewald noted, “despite all of this incredible effort by the media, an innumerable amount of people stood up and refused to be deceived.”
“They said the Germans would turn their backs on him and all kinds of other stupidities. There appears to be nothing more offensive in our times than being Catholic. As the magazine ‘Stern’ said, ‘The brief euphoria at the outset was followed by an irreparable distancing between the majority of Germans and their fellow countryman.’ It’s as if they were saying that everything would be wonderful and orderly in the world if the Vatican just ceased to exist.”
However, Seewald continued, “We were all witnesses to something much greater. Where were all the masses of critics and protesters? They never showed up. And yet 350,000 people made great sacrifices in order to personally listen to the Pope and to attend Mass with him. Millions watched on television. The Pope’s books are selling faster than ever … And undoubtedly never before has so much intelligence, wisdom and truth, so much of what is fundamental, been heard in Germany.”
According to Seewald, whose own conversion to Catholicism came after meeting then-Cardinal Ratzinger, “(t)hese words can no longer be ignored. They are the measure and the touchstone for the subsequent debates and the renewal of the Catholic Church in Germany.” The only “shadows” of the Pope’s trip to Germany were the massive attacks against him by the media, he said.
“We were often reminded of the people of Nazareth who did not want to listen to the Prophet from their own land. ‘He performs no miracles.’ That was the complaint of many in the media. They work like crazy in a state of antagonism against the Pope, they preach a new faith without values, and at the same time they air all these complaints that people are turning their backs on the Catholic Church. In reality, the percentage of those who leave (the Church) is much smaller than those who leave political parties, industries or associations, or even the protestant church,” Seewald said.
On the other hand, he continued, to see Benedict XVI “walk through the ferocious pack of media dogs without losing his composure for one second” was amazing.
“Indeed it was sad that many did not take advantage of this opportunity to express for once authentic Christian fraternity,” Seewald said. There is a part of Protestantism that still continues to see itself as an anti-papal faction. Before, the man in Rome was considered the anti-Christ. Today he is seen as anti-modern. Nevertheless, what is more significant is this: that after the encounter with the Pope, not only Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim representatives were extremely content, but also the president of the Evangelical Church in Germany, who after the meeting with Benedict XVI said, quote, ‘I am pleased.”
The Kath.net interviewer asked Seewald who the Pope was referring to when he said during the vigil with young people, “(D)amage to the Church comes not from her opponents but from uncommitted Christians.” Seewald replied, “Probably you and me. The Pope is an encourager and a builder of bridges, but he also warns us. Every Christian needs new impulses to keep from becoming stagnant in his development, in his journey, his witness and his Christian conduct.”
Later in the interview Seewald said the Pope came to Germany to draw attention to problems, because “he does not want a fictitious peace but rather one that is genuine. He is anything but someone who covers things up with nice words or tries to put make-up on the seriousness of the situation with massive events, contrary to what (Hans) Kung and his friends assert.”
Seewald also lamented that as a preamble to the youth meeting in Freiburg, local organizers gave young people the chance to vote on various topics such as women priests and homosexuality, leaving out any spiritual preparation for the event.
“Someone who does this does not understand how things are today,” he said. “It also displays a lack of perception of the seriousness of the situation. By doing such things, one becomes an ally of the opinion leaders who for decades have been using second or third-rate issues to lead the Church according to their whims and have basically caused a spiritual stagnation. Today things are so bad that many people know absolutely nothing about their faith. They know nothing about the Gospel and the Sacraments,” Seewald said.
Nevertheless, he added, “The Pope gave appropriate directions. The fate of the Church and of the faith, he clearly said, is determined in the context of the liturgy and the Eucharist. True change is only possible through the transformation of the heart.”
Put simply, the successor of Peter wants to lead us to the sources. And they do not belong to him or to the Vatican, but rather, out of them flows the ‘living water.’ And that a Church exists that protects and cares for these sources should make us feel happy and secure,” he said.