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At 84, the Pope is preparing for a gruelling visit to Germany which would exhaust a man 30 years younger. How does he do it? Well, there’s an answer to that…

This Pope is almost a one-man proof of the existence of God

By on Friday, 9 September 2011

Pope Benedict XVI: a proven people magnet

Pope Benedict XVI: a proven people magnet

You would think, wouldn’t you, that the anti-papal protesters, after the stunning success of World Youth Day and their humiliating failure – after a vicious and hate-filled campaign – to get on to the national radar during the Pope’s visit to England, would have gone out of business, or at least shut up for a bit.

But no: they’re now smacking their chops over the numbers they think, in their dreams, are going to turn up to protest against the Pope in Germany. “The website Der Papst kommt! [the Pope is coming]”, excitedly reports something called The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason [pah!] and Science, “is the home for a coalition of now 59 and growing, organisations united in criticism of the Pope. It is the nerve centre [ooh, how thrilling, a ‘nerve centre’; probably some scruffy little back room] for organising the upcoming protest which expects 15,000 to 20,000 demonstrators to protest during the Pope’s speech to the Bundestag [Lower House of German Parliament]”. That kind of estimate was made, of course, about the numbers who were going to turn up to the Protest the Pope main demo: it turned out to be (police figures) more like about a paltry 3,000.

I don’t know if there have been any protests about the projected cost of the visit yet, as there were in England and Spain: but they would be unwise to go down that road, since papal visits nearly always more than pay for themselves in terms of their stimulus to the local economy. Papal protesters in Spain claimed that “thousands” took to the streets to protest against the €50.5 million the visit was going to cost: afterwards it was clear that Madrid had benefited by at least three times that amount. Costs were much lower during the papal visit to this country: but everywhere the Pope went the local economy benefited. Birmingham, which incurred £80,000 in direct costs, estimated a £12.5 million boost to the city’s economy; in Glasgow there was a £4.25m surplus of economic benefit over costs.

So they can’t claim that papal visits are a financial drain. And they would be unwise to try and rattle local Catholics (as they did in this country) by scare stories about how little interest there was going to be, and how few people were going to turn up. Apart from anything else, all the venues that will host the Pope during his time in Germany are already fully booked up (unlike this country, because of the gross inefficiency with which the whole thing was organised rather than any lack of interest).

Look, these people are on a hiding to nothing. This Pope is supposed, preposterously, not to be “charismatic”. Well of course he’s charismatic: he’s a proven people magnet. He’s also, in his quiet and kindly way, a human dynamo. He’s going to address the German parliament, meet Jewish and Muslim groups, hold a prayer vigil with young people and celebrate Mass in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium. Among very much else: that’s just the headlines. And we’ve seen here how visits by this supposedly frail (hah!) old man go: they begin well, and then build up from there. He’s hardly had time to recover from Madrid: and already he’s off again. I’m not going to say anything more, just give you his schedule. Read it: even better, pray for it as it unfolds. A man 30 years younger would find this exhausting: my only comment is that nobody of his age could do it (as he triumphantly will) without the constant comfort (Latin cum fortis) and support of almighty God, for Whose existence this Pope is almost a one-man proof. Just look at this, then ponder and marvel:

Thursday, Sept. 22 (Rome, Berlin)

- 8:15 am, Departure from Rome’s Ciampino airport for Berlin.

- 10:30 am, Arrival at Berlin Tegel Airport. Official welcome.

- 11:15 pm, Welcoming ceremony at Bellevue Palace in Berlin. Speech by the pope.

Courtesy visit with German President Christian Wulff in Bellevue Palace.

- 12:50 pm, Official meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel at the headquarters of the German bishops’ conference in Berlin, next to the Catholic Academy.

- 1:30 pm, Lunch with papal entourage at the Catholic Academy.

- 4:15 pm, Visit to the federal Parliament in the Reichstag Building in Berlin. Speech by the pope.

- 5:15 pm, Meeting with representatives of the Jewish community in a room of the Reichstag Building. Speech by the pope.

- 6:30 pm, Mass in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium. Homily by the pope.

Friday, Sept. 23 (Berlin, Erfurt, Etzelsbach)

- 7:15 am, Private Mass in chapel of apostolic nunciature in Berlin.

- 9 am, Meeting with representatives of the Muslim community in reception room of the apostolic nunciature. Speech by the pope.

- 10 am, Departure by plane from Berlin Tegel Airport for Erfurt.

- 10:45 am, Arrival at Erfurt airport.

- 11:15 am, Visit to St Mary’s Cathedral in Erfurt.

- 11:45 am, Meeting with representatives of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, in the Chapter Room of the Monastery of St. Augustine in Erfurt. Speech by the pope.

- 12:20 pm, Ecumenical service in the Church of St. Augustine. Talk by the pope.

- 1:20 pm, Lunch with papal entourage in Erfurt seminary.

- 4:45 pm, Departure in helicopter from Erfurt airport for Etzelsbach.

- 5:30 pm, Arrival at Etzelsbach heliport.

- 5:45 pm, Marian evening prayer service at the Wallfahrtskapelle in Etzelsbach. Talk by the pope.

- 7 pm, Departure in helicopter from Etzelsbach for Erfurt.

- 7:40 pm, Arrival at Erfurt airport.

Saturday, Sept. 24 (Erfurt, Freiburg im Breisgau)

- 9 am, Mass at the Domplatz market square in Erfurt. Homily by the pope.

- 11:50 am, Departure by plane from Erfurt airport for Lahr.

- 12:50 pm, Arrival at Lahr airport.

- 2 pm, Visit to the cathedral of Freiburg im Breisgau.

- 2:15 pm, Encounter with townspeople in Cathedral Square of Freiburg im Breisgau. Greeting by the pope.

- 4:50 pm, Meeting with ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl in seminary of Freiburg im Breisgau.

- 5:15 pm, Meeting with representatives of Orthodox churches in the auditorium of the seminary of Freiburg im Breisgau. Greeting by the pope.

- 5:45 pm, Meeting with seminarians in the Chapel of St. Charles Borromeo in seminary of Freiburg im Breisgau. Greeting by the pope.

- 6:15 pm, Meeting with the council of the Central Committee of German Catholics in the auditorium of the seminary of Freiburg im Breisgau. Speech by the pope.

- 7 pm, Prayer vigil with young people at the trade fair grounds of Freiburg im Breisgau. Speech by the pope.

Sunday, Sept. 25 (Freiburg im Breisgau, Rome)

- 10 am, Mass at tourist airport of Freiburg im Breisgau. Homily by the pope.

Recital of the Angelus. Talk by the pope.

- 12:45 pm, Lunch with members of the German bishops’ conference and papal entourage at seminary of Freiburg im Breisgau.

- 4:20 pm, Meeting with judges of the Federal Constitutional Court in auditorium of the seminary of Freiburg im Breisgau.

- 5 pm, Meeting with Catholics involved in the church and in society in the Concert Hall of Freiburg im Breisgau. Speech by the pope.

- 6:45 pm, Departure ceremony at Lahr airport. Speech by the pope.

- 7:15 pm, Departure in plane from Lahr airport for Rome.

- 8:45 pm, Arrival at Rome’s Ciampino airport.

Then, I assume, back to Castel Gandolfo, just down the road from Ciampino. But there will be no let up: He’s off to Benin in November and Iraq in January. This is a man who repeatedly asked his predecessor for permission to retire, who longed for a peaceful retirement in his beloved Regensburg home: and now…

  • Anonymous

    William – spot on!

    Although if I were marketing man at Fanta, I know who I’d be using to front up my next advertising campaign!

  • Anonymous

    William – spot on!

    Although if I were marketing man at Fanta, I know who I’d be using to front up my next advertising campaign!

  • Anna

    So true! I just love Pope Benedict…God bless him!

  • Anonymous

    God certainly is providing our good Pope with the energy needed to get things done!! We are so fortunate to have Pope Benedict– it is obvious that the Holy Spirit was in favor of him becoming our Pope.

  • Virginia McGough

    And we thought that Bl. JP II would be a hard act to follow!

  • Anonymous

    This pope has such a disarming demeanor and placid countenance that all potential opposition to his upcoming visit could be wrong-footed by him.  This effect could be sent in the papal visits to Spain for the WYD and the UK  whose anniversary is shortly coming up.  But Germany still will present a major challenge for the Bavarian Pontiff as historically of course it was the starting point for Luther’s revolt which eventually rent European Catholicism in two and the contemporary Church there has it’s own severe tensions and strains.  But I believe that the wonderful analytical mind of this pope along with his peerless theological brilliance will once again leave behind favorable impressions in the minds and hearts of his listening audiences.

  • Jeannine

    The pope visiting Iraq in January? Kind of reminds me of the early Christians visiting Nero’s Circus in 64AD. 

  • martin

    Poor fellow, just wanted to retire to a quiet life, ah the plan of God v. those of mice and men.

  • http://www.azoic.com/ Irenaeus of New York

    What an amazing Holy Father we have! His event planners need to rethink things for the future. That schedule is too intense for a man of his age. I want him to be around a lot longer.

  • http://twitter.com/bbridson Brian Bridson

    What I find funny is how catholics chose to ignore the people who showed up to protest, not the money being spent, but the fact that the catholic church, and its leaders, have been responsible for some of the greatest present and historical injustices and are promoters of misunderstanding and hate. A lot of people want the pope arrested.

    I am sure many of you are very nice people, despite your religion. But your leader is responsible for crimes against humanity. He should be locked up.

  • http://twitter.com/bbridson Brian Bridson

    Great leader, eh? With all of the Irish child sex abuse at the hands of catholic clergy, the pope is more concerned about a blame game than in acknowledging his ship is out of order. Oh, and by having those responsible for cover-ups and the abuse itself tossed in prison for the rest of their inhumane lives.

    And that includes your beloved leader.

  • Anonymous

    My, my–if you dislike Catholics so much why is it so important to let us know? Since the time of the Apostles this hatred– if not persecution has been going on. Even today Catholics continue to be martyred, yet Christ’s Church will last until the end of the world and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. So your angry accusations are not going to chase us away or even make us feel any guilt as long as we have those working to remove such people.  Do you think that the problems of abuse is exclusive to just the church? I read often of abuses by police, teachers, politicians, parents–it is horrible , but the Church is working to correct it. 

  • http://twitter.com/bbridson Brian Bridson

    I never said abuse was a catholic-only question. But clergy raping and torturing children, including boys, is a double-sin (pedophilia and homosexual relations/practice). And your church covers this deplorable behaviour up by and large…and then tries to distance itself from all of it when the pope and vatican are brought up on charges.

    Your leader is a hypocrite who helps cause misery and violence around the world, every day.

    That is why I am angry and when I happen to see people like you praising this imp and his horrible ways, I feel the need to challenge your claims. Hold up a mirror as it were.

  • ms catholic state

    Actually the Church has been responsible for the greatest good in the world…..founding Western civilisation, hospitals schools and universities….tending to the poor and destitute for no renumeration and producing the finest art and music the world has ever known.

    Secularism has nothing in comparison.  In fact….superficial secularism and its ridiculous beliefs are on their last legs.

  • ms catholic state

    Secularists are the real hypocrites.  There are many secularists calling for the lowering or abolishing of the age of consent……for their own depraved purposes….and these secularists are pillars of secular society.   Secularists it seems are only truly bothered by paedophilia….when it involves the Church.  And this Pope has done more to rid the Church of the scourge of paedophiles than anyone else.

    Please….be consistent and oppose all paedophilia and support the raising of the age of consent to 18!! 

  • Anonymous

    Long live our great Pope Benedict who has God’s blessing and will never err in pronouncements on Faith and  morals. I stick by him and will continue to praise his good and holy work. So your challenge is empty and fruitless… except that it might make you feel better since you must have nothing better to do.

  • FM
  • FM

    Riiight, just like those secularists who tried in Holland to legalize pedophilia and those now in the US who are trying to convince the APA to remove pedophilia from the ‘mental disorders’?Or the very secularist and atheist Peter Singer, who teaches at Princeton (not some backwater school then) who cliamed that there is *nothing wrong* with things like necrophilia or infanticide and the like.Or maybe Carl Sagan, a great secularist mind, who says there is nothing wrong with killing babies (no not fetuses, babies!)? Or several secularists’ schools and associations that want to teach sex to 5- yrs old (read the newspapers and not only the scandal page)Hey even Richard Dawkins in his book said that he was sexually abused as a kid and he did not think it was a bad experience. ;)I think the people who spoon-feed you the nonsense you are vomiting up right now (must be some real rotten brain food uh?) are a bunch of hypocrites.
    Let me tell you: secularists I think do not give a damn about the abuse crisis. They just revel in it because it’s cheap ammo to attack the church.
    I 110% am sure that if the really APA pens out pedophilia and it becomes legal at some point (hopefully it will never happen), secularists will be blaming churches for being ‘backward at condemning pedophilia’ just as they are doing now in case of some other issues.
    How could it not be if morality is a wholly ‘relative issue’ (if you believe that you truly have no right to complain in any case, you’d be ‘intolerant of other people’ ;P )” And your church covers this deplorable behavior up by and large”Actually secular authorities were also involved at largely ignoring sexual abuse and often coveting it up in secular/public institutions. So even if some people in the Church are indeed responsible for these immoral act and deserve to be punished, you have no claim for any moral superiority. Sorry, you are just a misinformed fool.On top of that you are just boring (http://www.ncregister.com/blog/matthew-archbold/the-anti-catholics-guide-to-catholic-comboxes/)… your arguments are the usual ignorant cliches.

  • Anonymous

    Do you have irrefutable proof that this pope tried to cover up any cases of child abuse?  Just do a little research on this pope’s record before sounding off an in a scattergun fashion.  When he was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he requested that all cases be transferred to his jurisdiction due to the fact that all Church mechanisms in place at the time were totally inadequate.  He was firmly of the opinion that the guilty needed to be disciplined severely and justice expedited for the victims.  As pope, he has considerably tightened up canon law so that abusers can be removed from the priesthood more quickly and no loopholes used to prevent it.  He has met victims of abuse on many occasions while overseas.  Methinks that you have a personal animus against this particular pope.  Is it because he has a very analytical mind which has proposed solutions which go against the accepted wisdom of the secular world to moral problems of our time and thus go beyond the empty, materialistic, utilitarian mindset which is so dominant.

  • Anonymous

    Well, BB, there you go again with your scatter-gun generalizations and very wide of the mark accusations.  What present injustices are you incensed about?  Would they include the fact that the Catholic Church is directly responsible for at least a quarter of all the health/social care that is dispensed around the world, giving aid to and treating the sick, homeless, hungry and impoverished citizens globally?  Could it be the Catholic educational establishments in practically every country in the world, educating their children from all ethnic/religious and social backgrounds and giving them a sense of their true dignity?  You accuse the Church of being a promoter of misunderstanding and hate, despite organisations like Community of Sant’Egidio(nominated for the Nobel Peace prize in 2002) based in Rome which has intervened in well-publicized trouble-spots around the world to help bring peace and stability to these places.

  • James H

    Poor Sir Brian, dear me! Yes, innit awful, how the Catholic Church has been responsible for all the horrors of history: death marches, gulags, concentration camps, environmental destruction, famines (and lying about them), and the murders! Oh, the murders, 8-figure numbers and counting…

    Oh, sorry, that was atheists!

  • AgingPapist

    Thank you Brian for injecting a grasp of the real world into these discussions for those who have convenient memory lapses and continue to delude themselves when it comes to pervert protecting pontiff.  Chancellor Merkel should arrange to have the German police on hand to greet this war criminal as soon as his plane lands in Berlin.

  • AgingPapist

    The point is not disliking Catholics. It is to face facts and oppose manifest sin and corruption from the Court of Rome on down through the fetid swamp of hierarchical perversion.

  • AgingPapist

    The bishop of Rome has it within his power to lay to rest all suspicions by releasing to the world the complete record of Vatican communications with bishops regarding all of the cases brought to its attention.  This should include the communications of the bishops with the Holy See and the sensitive correspondence between the papal legates to Rome and communications between the legate and the bishops . That is the only way Benedict will ever put this matter behind him.

    Benedict should announce the release of these records while he’s in Germany, the home of the original Reformation, and where we are seeing there and in Austria the launching of the next great reformation.  Now reaching a fever pitch in northern Europe and soon to be brought to you in your local church. So, stay tuned.

  • AgingPapist

    More Romish self-delusion and heresy.

  • AgingPapist

    His event planners need to rethink things for the future.
    His “event planners” Irenaeus need to “rethink” the pope’s future. To include a quiet retirement in Sicily, St. Helena, or the island of Mauritius.  Any of these lovely spots should be very nice this time of year.

  • AgingPapist

    Since the 16th century, to which Pontiff Ratzinger would like to return us and his personal prelature, the Catholic Church, Rome has been marginalized and rendered irrelevant by the rest of the world. The coup de gras is being administered by the universe today which is sitting in judgment.  Hence the revolt of the priests everywhere joined to the outrage from the Presbyterate of the Laity.

  • SPQRatae

    You are absolutely right. You are angry. You are defined by your anger.
    So sad.

  • Anonymous

    Be careful that is not you who is living within the realms of self-delusion and heresy.  The pope is under no illusions about the gravity or the extent of the current sex abuse crisis.  He has been in the vanguard of attempts to bring about a systematic approach to tackling it in terms of penalizing the guilty and dispensing justice.  
    Could it be that societies across Europe who have put their fingers in their ears and remain deaf to the Christian message, that have fallen into self-delusion and heresy and need a wake-up call from the pope, such as he has provided in recent visits to Spain and the UK?

  • Anonymous

    I think that the only signs of revolt are from aging revolutionaries who manned the barricades during the so-called “Spirit of Vatican” 2 era that never really existed and expect the Church to adopt  their worldly remedies to make the church more “relevant”.  These steps have been tried in mainline protestant churches, both in the US and Europe with negative results in all fronts.  The demands of the gospel are both radical and rewarding and simply watering them down to suit the agenda of revolting priests, theologians or laity will undermine the Christ-given mission of the Church.

  • Anonymous

    I think that the only signs of revolt are from aging revolutionaries who manned the barricades during the so-called “Spirit of Vatican” 2 era that never really existed and expect the Church to adopt  their worldly remedies to make the church more “relevant”.  These steps have been tried in mainline protestant churches, both in the US and Europe with negative results in all fronts.  The demands of the gospel are both radical and rewarding and simply watering them down to suit the agenda of revolting priests, theologians or laity will undermine the Christ-given mission of the Church.

  • teresa

    Brian, what you decry was the way the Catholic Church handled reports of abuse in the past, which is the way the rest of society was handling it. Everyone was wrong! There were numerous reasons for the lack of transparency, a few of them “good,” such as the desire to spare potential victims of the fall out of such humiliating exposures of the victims, their families, and associations (e.g. the teaching profession). Another belief was that they could change with counseling, but–again–it is difficult to go on to a new life if the community clings to the previous persona. Of course, when we keep things quiet we fail to realize the significance of the problem. Unfortunately, hindsight is 20/20.The Church has now recognized the depth of pain felt by the young victims and the fall out of dealing with such a sinful act in such a secular manner; she is attempting now is to deal with all of this in a more honest manner BUT
     the some of the same problems remain–the biggest of these is  not making the intervention more harmful than the cure. Read the Alcoholics Anonymous step of forgiveness and not asking forgiveness of someone to relieve your own pain–see first if this act will cause another more pain. Talk to persons required to do interventions where sexual abuse is suspected and try to understand all the factors involved where emotional reactions (such as your own) only exacerbate–even explode–vs expose–the problem. And sexual abuse is not the only social evil we still mishandle; examine child placement in foster homes, custody disputes. We survive and continue to try, not because we naively believe that we know better nor that we will solve the problem but because we desire to continue to do God’s will, in spite of the fact that we are blind and the fact that (do not see the truth clearly now) and the fact that the tragedies will continue (the poor will be with you always).

  • teresa

    Please read the latter half of my response to an earlier posting of Brian’s. Until you have experience in such complicated issues–moral dilemmas–please do not attempt to toss out simple solutions.

  • Anonymous

    I agree that the Pope, if it is practicable, should release the necessary documentation to prove once and for all that there was no world-wide conspiracy to impede justice in relation to child abuse cases across the world. But I would still have doubts if even this would silence the cacophony of criticism coming from the usual suspects.  In relation to a second reformation, while I too am disgusted at the handling of the child sex abuse cases by errant bishops in relation to suspected or proven abusers, I think that the protesters in many cases are building their house upon sand rather than stone and if they have their way the Church would be indistinguishable from any other worldly organization with little overt evidence that it was proposing anything challenging to mankind.

  • Anonymous

    At the Last Judgement you’ll discover who is right, in the meanwhile I’ll stick by  the Church founded by Christ Himself (which can be proved by history). Go in peace to love God as best you can..

  • Anonymous

    Oh, are you speaking for the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit? When were you put in charge? And do you think that the Catholic Church is going to change it teachings on Faith and morals and policy due to some feeble (you call it great) reformation. Guess again.

  • Anonymous

    Your anger/rage is making your comments quite droll. “German police”, “war criminal”. So that great country that followed a rotten leader called Hitler, killed countless numbers of people–so  it is now going to bring justice to the world and arrest a religious leader??? Very amusing.

  • Anonymous

    Are you suggesting his stamina in old age is proof of God’s blessing?  I can see that with some people, like Jimmy Carter (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/sep/11/jimmy-carter-human-rights) or Nelson Mandela. Then of course there’s Ian Paisley and Robert Mugabe… Hmmm. I’m not sure it quite works for me.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, that link got damaged. Try again: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/sep/11/jimmy-carter-human-rights  

  • Anonymous

    It is amazing how the Pope gets around at his age…not just the traveling but the writing.  He puts me to shame and I am only (!) 54.  God Bless You Papa Bene!

  • Anonymous

    PS, I love the opening line on your article, that the Pope is a one-man proof of the existence of God.

  • Mito Gonzalez

    It would do you good, before throwing any stone over anybody to read and inform yourself. Please, if you a a good hearted man read the following: http://www.vatican.va/resources/resources_arrieta-20101204_sp.html But, if you don´t remember that your intolerance makes you accuse without information, that it is close to slander.
    Try your best if you are honest. I´ll try too! We are all sinners.

  • Mito Gonzalez

    Dear Brian, you have just said it: I am angry… Could your anger blind you to see the whole truth and just show you that many times our unique source of information are the different news that are sometimes more avid to find garbage than the truth. There is notheing to hide if it is true and the Church as such has not hidden anything, but some members that in those place held the authority and exercise a bad use of it. That is not the Church. Please cool down and get down to business: If you want to judge, you must study and read, not only papers, there you go: http://www.vatican.va/resources/resources_arrieta-20101204_en.html and another one, because in the previous post I sent you to the Spanish version, sorry for that. Here is the second part or summary: http://www.vatican.va/resources/resources_arrieta-20101202_en.html I you don´t read you don´t have right to ventilate your anger, that is what the Pharisees wanted to do with the lady caught in adultery…

  • Wili315

    Brian… stop the Kool-aid
    drinking.  The Catholic Church does more good than any organization in the
    world, and most probably, more than all the NATIONS of the world combined.
     I do not contest that there have been priest who have abused, raped, and
    tormented children. They deserve EVERY BIT OF YOUR WRATH!   However, for
    you to throw the entire church under the bus for the 2% of bad apples is unfair
    and irresponsible. Charol Shakeshaft, the researcher of a
    little-remembered 2004 study prepared for the U.S. Department of Education,
    said, “the physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more
    than 100 times the abuse by priests.” …. I simply ask you
    Brian… where is the outrage!  Shakeshaft compared the priest abuse
    data with data collected in a national survey for the American Association of
    University Women Educational Foundation in 2000. Extrapolating data from the
    latter, she estimated roughly 290,000 students experienced some sort of
    physical sexual abuse by a school employee from a single decade—1991-2000. That
    compares with about five decades of cases of abusive by priests, which totaled 11,000
    abuse victims.  AGAIN BRIAN, WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE!???

    I’m Sorry BRIAN, but, IN SHORT… SHUT