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Stand firm in the storm pope urges the people of the German Church

VATICAN CITY (CNS): “This is not a godless city. It is even a city of martyrs,” Archbishop Rainer Woelki said on September 22 in welcoming Pope Benedict XVI to Berlin at the stadium that was purpose built by the Adolf Hitler regime to host the 1936 Olympic Games.

However, despite describing Berlin as not being godless, the archbishop informed the pope that only one in three people in the country identify themselves as Christians. “You are coming to a city where God has been forgotten and atheism has taken hold,” he said.

During the Mass celebrated for around 70,000 people, Pope Benedict appealed for a better understanding of the Church, reminding people in his congregation that their dream Church does not exist.

“Dissatisfaction and discontent begin to spread when people’s superficial and mistaken notions of Church, their dream Church, fail to materialise,” he said.

In a message broadcast by German state television on September 17, prior to the pope’s departure from Rome, Pope Benedict set the scene for his third trip to his home country as the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church.

“All this is not religious tourism,” the pontiff said in a pre-recorded talk, “even less a spectacle. The meaning is explained in the theme of the visit, Where there is God, there is a future.”

He continued, “This means that God should return to our horizons, this God who is often completely absent and yet whom we need so much.”

In outlining the purpose of his visit, Pope Benedict said that he was not coming to Germany to address specific problems in the Church or the world, but to talk about the human capacity to perceive God in a number of ways; in the beauty of creation, in the great rationality of the world, in the words of the scripture and by meeting people, both the famous and less known, who have been touched by God.

Speaking of his visit to the monastery where Martin Luther once studied, where he was scheduled to meet with Lutheran scholars, he commented, “In fact, the true greatness of this event is that we come together to think, listen to the word of God and pray together. In this way, we will be very close and demonstrate a true ecumenism.”......

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