Pope Benedict XVI has said that his trip to Germany, which began yesterday, will focus on restoring God’s place in people’s lives as a guide and force for good.
He said he was very much looking forward to the visit and previewed the main events, including his address to parliament, Mass in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium and a vigil with young people in Freiburg.
“All this is not religious tourism and even less a ‘spectacle’. The meaning is explained in the theme of the visit: ‘Where there is God, there is a future,’ ” he said. “This means that God should return to our horizon, this God who is often completely absent, and yet whom we need so much.”
The Pope said that although God could not be scientifically proven to exist, nevertheless people could develop a capacity to perceive God in the beauty of creation, in the “great rationality” of the world, in the words of Scripture and by meeting people who have been touched by Him.
He said that one crucial event would be his encounter with Protestant leaders at a monastery where Martin Luther studied. But he advised against expecting “sensational” ecumenical developments. “In fact, the true greatness of this event is that we can come together to think, listen to the Word of God and pray together. In this way we will demonstrate a true ecumenism,” he said.
His comments were echoed by Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi, who said: “It’s a misunderstanding to think the future of the Church depends on the question of priestly celibacy, for example. It depends on whether people believe in God.”
About 100 of Germany’s 620 parliamentarians have said they plan to boycott the Pope’s speech to the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament. They claim the event violates the separation of Church and state.