Benedict’s Visit to His German Homeland: Grace, Compassion and Truth

Day by day, Pope Benedict’s first official state visit to his native Germany brings encouraging reports:

In Berlin, he met with German Jewish leaders.  In that meeting, Pope Benedict emphasized that what the two faiths “hold in common is not an insignificant part of their traditions.”  He went on to tell the dozens of rabbis that:

It is clear to us all that a loving relationship of

mutual understanding between Israel and the Church, each respecting the existence of the other, still has further to grow and needs to be built into the heart of our proclamation of the faith.

The pontiff met in a  closed-door session with a group of Muslims and again emphasized the good:  He praised Muslims for placing “great importance” on the religious dimension of life, and emphasized the importance of values shared by both the religions in an increasingly secularized society.

Speaking yesterday in the Erfurt chapel where Martin Luther—then an Augustinian monk—had prayed before launching his schismatic protest against Rome, Pope Benedict praised Luther’s “deep passion and driving force” in his beliefs. Of course the pope could not, though, do what some uninformed reporters had predicted and bring with him an “ecumenical gift”—that is, change Church teaching in order to achieve greater harmony with Protestants.  No, he explained; to expect this was a “political misreading of faith and of ecumenism.”

He also met yesterday with a group of victims of clergy sexual abuse, and expressed his “deep compassion and regret.”

Today, September 24, Pope Benedict XVI addressed German lay Catholics gathered in the Collegium Borromaeum, the priest seminary at Freiburg.  Speaking candidly about the secularism and relativism that have taken hold in that country, the pope said:

The Church in Germany is superbly organized. But behind the structures, is there also a corresponding spiritual strength, the strength of faith in a living God?

We must honestly admit that we have more than enough by way of structure but not enough by way of Spirit. I would add: the real crisis facing the Church in the western world is a crisis of faith. If we do not find a way of genuinely renewing our faith, all structural reform will remain ineffective.


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