A farewell prayer

At the end of his visit to Germany, Pope Benedict XVI. exhorted the Catholic Church in Germany not to rely on worldly privileges and to fulfill its mission in the world more consistently. At the same time he turned against demands for a superficial inner-church reform and a pandering to the world.

The head of the church expressed his views in an eagerly awaited keynote speech on Sunday afternoon in the Freiburg Concert Hall before several hundred full-time and part-time church officials as well as representatives of other religions, the media and public life. Federal President Christian Wulff, Baden-Wurttemberg's Minister President Winfried Kretschmann (Greens) and Federal Minister of the Interior Hans-Peter Friedrich (CSU) were also present.

The pope did not explicitly address the abolition of "state benefits," church taxes and German "state church law" currently being called for by some politicians and lawyers. The church is always in danger of settling into the world and conforming to the world's standards, he warned. Then it gives greater weight to organization and institutionalization than to its vocation of openness. In order to fulfill its true mission, the Church must always make the effort to detach itself from the "worldliness of the world".

The Pope illustrated his ideas with an excursus on the history of the Church: earlier periods of secularization had been a help to the Church because they had contributed to its purification and inner reform. The expropriation of church property and the cancellation of privileges meant "each time a profound de-worldliness of the church, which thereby, as it were, stripped itself of its worldly wealth and again completely took on its worldly poverty."

To courageously discard the worldliness of the Church
He stressed that "the time has come again to put aside the worldliness of the Church."Free of privileges, it realizes the "aspiration of a poverty that has opened itself to the world in order to free itself from its material ties". Historical examples of secularization showed that the missionary witness of a de-worldized Church was becoming clearer.

The day before, in an address to the Central Committee of German Catholics, he had already made the diagnosis that the Catholic Church in Germany was stronger in its structures and organizations than in its faith. Once again the Pope rejected demands for superficial reforms. As far as the Church is concerned, the fundamental motive of the change is the "apostolic mission of the disciples and of the Church itself". The church must always reare itself of this mission. Renewals, for example, in the style of a new coat of paint on the facade or in the sense of a course correction, "in order to cover a path more quickly and more straightforwardly," did play a role. Much more important, however, was a reconsideration of the Good News.

Distance to short-lived things
The demands and constraints of the world are always obscuring the witness. In order to realize its mission, the church must repeatedly distance itself from its surroundings, it must, as it were, "de-worldlyize" itself. This does not mean that the Church should withdraw from the world, Benedict XVI stressed. Especially in social commitment, however, it helps to keep a distance from short-lived things.

During his speech, Benedict XVI. once again on the subject of "sexual abuse in the church". The Pope confessed that he was concerned about the effects of these "painful scandals". It becomes dangerous "when these scandals take the place of the primary annoyance of the cross and thus make it inaccessible, that is, when they obscure the actual Christian claim behind the insubordination of its messengers."

After the speech, the Holy Father prayed the Lord's Prayer together with the visitors.

Before the return flight to Rome: Pope says words of blessing
Before his flight back to Rome, Pope Benedict XVI said. said goodbye to his compatriots in Germany with words of thanks and blessing. At a closing ceremony at the Lahr airport on Sunday evening, he called on Catholics to continue on the path of faith with strength and confidence. In the presence of German President Christian Wulff, the Pope once again recalled the individual stations of his journey in Berlin, Erfurt and Freiburg.

He emphasized the "fruitful discussions" he had held in Berlin with Wulff and the Chancellor about the current political situation. In addition, he had the special opportunity to speak to the members of the Bundestag and to present them with "thoughts on the spiritual foundations of the state," Benedict said. He was "particularly touched" by the warm welcome and great enthusiasm of so many people in Berlin.

The pope also emphasized the ecumenism portion of his four-day visit: in the land of the Reformation, ecumenism naturally formed a "focal point of the trip," Benedict said. "I am heartily grateful for the fraternal exchange and the joint prayer," he said, referring to the meeting with representatives of the Protestant Church in Germany at the Augustinian Monastery in Erfurt. The meeting with Orthodox Christians as well as with Jews and Muslims was also significant.

"Filled with the impressive experiences and memories of these days in the homeland" he is now returning, the 84-year-old Benedict said. He prays "for a good future for our country in peace and freedom," the pope ared, concluding with the words: "The Lord bless you all."

German president praises pope's trip as a great success
At the closing ceremony, German President Christian Wulff praised Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Germany. praised as a great success. In doing so, "they have given countless people gifts," Wulff said. "Your visit has inspired many people," Wulff added.

With his four-day visit to Germany, Pope Benedict had contributed to the fact that people outside the churches also feel spurred to deal with topics of the Christian faith. In addition, he said, he helped ensure that the church "remains close to the people". In addition, Benedict had set a significant sign for ecumenism through his meeting with representatives of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD).

The pope had previously met briefly with the German president and his wife Bettina in a small room at the airport. Numerous guests from politics, church and society had gathered on the honorary tribune, among them the Prime Minister of Baden-Wurttemberg, Winfried Kretschmann (Greens), and high church dignitaries.

At 19.15 p.m., the pope boarded the Lufthansa plane and headed home to Rome. On board, in addition to the pope, a group of cardinals, his secretaries and a Vatican delegation, were 70 media representatives from around the world.

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Christina Cherry
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