The Holy Father will depart from Rome’s Ciampino airport at 8.15 a.m. on Thursday 22 September, landing at Berlin-Tegel airport at 10.30 a.m. The welcome ceremony and the courtesy meeting with Christian Wulff, president of the Federal Republic of Germany, will both take place at Bellevue Castle, official residence of the president. The Holy Father will then go on to the headquarters of the German Episcopal Conference in Berlin where he will encounter the federal chancellor.
In the afternoon he will visit the federal parliament, then meet
representatives of the local Jewish community. At 6.30 p.m. he is due to celebrate Mass in Berlin’s Olympic stadium.
At 9 a.m. on Friday 23 September the Holy Father will meet with representatives of the Muslim community at the apostolic nunciature in Berlin, before travelling by plane to the city of Erfurt. There he will
visit St. Mary’s Cathedral, address representatives of the German Evangelical Church Council and participate in an ecumenical celebration.
That afternoon he will be taken by helicopter to Etzelsbach where at 5.45 p.m. he is due to preside at Marian Vespers at the Wallfahrtskapelle.Following the celebration he will return to Erfurt.
On the morning of Saturday 24 September Benedict XVI will celebrate Mass at Erfurt’s Domplatz before travelling by plane to the city of Freiburg im Breisgau where he will make a visit to the local cathedral. During the afternoon he will go to the local seminary where he will meet first with Helmut Kohl, former chancellor of Germany, then with representatives from the Orthodox Churches, followed by the seminarians themselves and finally the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZDK).
At 7 p.m. he is scheduled to preside at a prayer vigil with young people at the Fair of Freiburg im Breisgau.
At 10 a.m. on Sunday 25 September he will celebrate Mass and pray the
Angelus at the airport of Freiburg im Breisgau.
Following Mass the Holy Father will have lunch with members of the German Episcopal Conference. At 4.20 p.m. he will meet with magistrates of the Federal Constitutional Court, then with a group of Catholics active in the Church and society.
Following the departure ceremony at the airport of Lahr, the papal plane will depart for Rome where it is expected to land at Ciampino airport at 8.45 p.m.
PV-GERMANY/ VIS 20110720
"Those Who Believe in Christ See Light even Amid the Darkest Night"
Address to Youth at Prayer Vigil
September 24, 2011
Dear young friends,
Throughout today I have been looking forward to this evening, and to this opportunity to be together with you and to join you in prayer. No doubt some of you were present at World Youth Day, where we were able to experience the special atmosphere of peace, deep fellowship and inner joy that characterizes an evening prayer vigil. It is my wish that we may all experience the same thing now: that the Lord may touch our hearts and make us joyful witnesses who pray together and support one another, not just this evening but throughout our lives.
In all churches, in cathedrals and religious houses, wherever the faithful gather to celebrate the Easter Vigil, that holiest of all nights begins with the lighting of the Paschal candle, whose light is then passed on to all who are present. One tiny flame spreads out to become many lights and fills the darkness of God's house with its brightness. This wonderful liturgical rite, which we have imitated in our prayer vigil tonight, reveals to us in signs more eloquent than words the mystery of our Christian faith. He, Christ, who says of himself: "I am the light of the world" (Jn 8:12), causes our lives to shine brightly, so that what we have just heard in the Gospel comes true: "You are the light of the world" (Mt 5:14). It is not our human efforts or the technical progress of our era that brings light into this world. Again and again we experience how our striving to bring about a better and more just world hits against its limits. Innocent suffering and the ultimate fact of death awaiting every single person are an impenetrable darkness which may perhaps, through fresh experiences, be lit up for a moment, as if through a flash of lightning at night. In the end, though, a frightening darkness remains.
While all around us there may be darkness and gloom, yet we see a light: a small, tiny flame that is stronger than the seemingly powerful and invincible darkness. Christ, risen from the dead, shines in this world and he does so most brightly in those places where, in human terms, everything is sombre and hopeless. He has conquered death -- he is alive -- and faith in him, like a small light, cuts through all that is dark and threatening. To be sure, those who believe in Jesus do not lead lives of perpetual sunshine, as though they could be spared suffering and hardship, but there is always a bright glimmer there, lighting up the path that leads to fullness of life (cf. Jn 10:10). The eyes of those who believe in Christ see light even amid the darkest night and they already see the dawning of a new day.
Light does not remain alone. All around, other lights are flaring up. In their gleam, space acquires contours, so that we can find our bearings. We do not live alone in this world. And it is for the important things of life that we have to rely on other people. Particularly in our faith, then, we do not stand alone, we are links in the great chain of believers. Nobody can believe unless he is supported by the faith of others, and conversely, through my faith, I help to strengthen others in their faith. We help one another to set an example, we give others a share in what is ours: our thoughts, our deeds, our affections. And we help one another to find our bearings, to work out where we stand in society.
Dear friends, the Lord says: "I am the light of the world -- you are the light of the world." It is mysterious and wonderful that Jesus applies the same predicate to himself and to each one of us, namely "light". If we believe that he is the Son of God, who healed the sick and raised the dead, who rose from the grave himself and is truly alive, then we can understand that he is the light, the source of all the lights of this world. On the other hand, we experience more and more the failure of our efforts and our personal shortcomings, despite our good intentions. In the final analysis, the world in which we live, in spite of its technical progress, does not seem to be getting any better. There is still war and terror, hunger and disease, bitter poverty and merciless oppression. And even those figures in our history who saw themselves as "bringers of light", but without being fired by Christ, the one true light, did not manage to create an earthly paradise, but set up dictatorships and totalitarian systems, in which even the smallest spark of true humanity is choked.
At this point we cannot remain silent about the existence of evil. We see it in so many places in this world; but we also see it -- and this scares us -- in our own lives. Truly, within our hearts there is a tendency towards evil, there is selfishness, envy, aggression. Perhaps with a certain self-discipline all this can to some degree be controlled. But it becomes more difficult with faults that are somewhat hidden, that can engulf us like a thick fog, such as sloth, or laziness in willing and doing good. Again and again in history, keen observers have pointed out that damage to the Church comes not from her opponents, but from uncommitted Christians. So how can Christ say that Christians, presumably including these weak Christians, are the light of the world? Perhaps we could understand if he were to call out to us: Repent! Be the light of the world! Change your life, make it bright and radiant! Should we not be surprised that the Lord directs no such appeal to us, but tells us that we are the light of the world, that we shine, that we light up the darkness?
Dear friends, Saint Paul in many of his letters does not shrink from calling his contemporaries, members of the local communities, "saints". Here it becomes clear that every baptized person -- even before he or she can accomplish good works -- is sanctified by God. In baptism the Lord, as it were, sets our life alight with what the Catechism calls sanctifying grace. Those who watch over this light, who live by grace, are holy.
Dear friends, again and again the very notion of saints has been caricatured and distorted, as if to be holy meant to be remote from the world, naive and joyless. Often it is thought that a saint has to be someone with great ascetic and moral achievements, who might well be revered, but could never be imitated in our own lives. How false and discouraging this opinion is! There is no saint, apart from the Blessed Virgin Mary, who has not also known sin, who has never fallen. Dear friends, Christ is not so much interested in how often in our lives we stumble and fall, as in how often with his help we pick ourselves up again. He does not demand glittering achievements, but he wants his light to shine in you. He does not call you because you are good and perfect, but because he is good and he wants to make you his friends. Yes, you are the light of the world because Jesus is your light. You are Christians -- not because you do special and extraordinary things, but because he, Christ, is your life, our life. You are holy, we are holy, if we allow his grace to work in us.
Dear friends, this evening as we gather in prayer around the one Lord, we sense the truth of Christ's saying that the city built on a hilltop cannot remain hidden. This gathering shines in more ways than one -- in the glow of innumerable lights, in the radiance of so many young people who believe in Christ. A candle can only give light if it lets itself be consumed by the flame. It would remain useless if its wax failed to nourish the fire. Allow Christ to burn in you, even at the cost of sacrifice and renunciation. Do not be afraid that you might lose something and, so to speak, emerge empty-handed at the end.
Have the courage to apply your talents and gifts for God's kingdom and to give yourselves -- like candlewax -- so that the Lord can light up the darkness through you. Dare to be glowing saints, in whose eyes and hearts the love of Christ beams and who thus bring light to the world. I am confident that you and many other young people here in Germany are lamps of hope that do not remain hidden. "You are the light of the world". Where God is, there is a future! Amen.
© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
"In Our Affluent Western World, Much is Lacking"
Message to German Laity
September 24, 2011
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am grateful for this opportunity to come together, here in Freiburg, with you, the Council Members of the Central Committee for German Catholics (ZdK). I gladly express to you my appreciation for your work in publicly representing the concerns of Catholics and in giving impetus to the apostolate of the Church and of Catholics in society. I would also like to thank you, dear President Glück, for your words, and for your many important and thought-provoking observations.
Dear friends, for some years now, development aid has included what are known as "exposure programs." Leaders from the fields of politics, economics and religion live among the poor in Africa, Asia, or Latin America for a certain period and share the day-to-day reality of their lives. They are exposed to the circumstances in which these people live, in order to see the world through their eyes and hence to learn how to practice solidarity.
Let us imagine that an exposure program of this kind were to take place here in Germany. Experts from a far country would arrive to spend a week with an average German family. They would find much to admire here, for example the prosperity, the order and the efficiency. But looking on with unprejudiced eyes, they would also see plenty of poverty: poverty in human relations and poverty in the religious sphere.
We live at a time that is broadly characterized by a subliminal relativism that penetrates every area of life. Sometimes this relativism becomes aggressive, when it opposes those who say that they know where the truth or meaning of life is to be found.
And we observe that this relativism exerts more and more influence on human relationships and on society. This is reflected, among other things, in the inconstancy and fragmentation of many people's lives and in an exaggerated individualism. Many no longer seem capable of any form of self-denial or of making a sacrifice for others. Even the altruistic commitment to the common good, in the social and cultural sphere or on behalf of the needy, is in decline. Others are now quite incapable of committing themselves unreservedly to a single partner. People can hardly find the courage now to promise to be faithful for a whole lifetime; the courage to make a decision and say: now I belong entirely to you, or to take a firm stand for fidelity and truthfulness and sincerely to seek a solution to their problems.
Dear friends, in the exposure program, analysis is followed by common reflection. This evaluation must take into account the whole of the human person, and this includes -- not just implicitly but quite clearly -- the person's relationship to the Creator.
We see that in our affluent western world much is lacking. Many people lack experience of God's goodness. They no longer find any point of contact with the mainstream churches and their traditional structures. But why is this? I think this is a question on which we must reflect very seriously. Addressing it is the principal task of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization. But naturally it is something that concerns us all. Allow me to refer here to an aspect of Germany's particular situation. The Church in Germany is superbly organized. But behind the structures, is there also a corresponding spiritual strength, the strength of faith in the 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.
But let us return to the people who lack experience of God's goodness. They need places where they can give voice to their inner longing. And here we are called to seek new paths of evangelization. Small communities could be one such path, where friendships are lived and deepened in regular communal adoration before God.
There we find people who speak of these small faith experiences at their workplace and within their circle of family and friends, and in so doing bear witness to a new closeness between Church and society. They come to see more and more clearly that everyone stands in need of this nourishment of love, this concrete friendship with others and with the Lord. Of continuing importance is the link with the vital life-source that is the Eucharist, since cut off from Christ we can do nothing (cf. Jn15:5).
Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord always point out to us how together we can be lights in the world and can show our fellow men the path to the source at which they can quench their profound thirst for life. I thank you.
© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
"We are All the Early Church which is Still Present and New"
Address to Orthodox Leaders
September 24, 2011
Dear Cardinals, Brother Bishops,
Distinguished Representatives of Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches!
It is a great joy for me that we have come together here today. From my heart I thank all of you for coming and for the possibility of this friendly exchange. I offer a particular word of thanks to you, dear Metropolitan Augoustinos for your profound words. I was especially moved by what you said about the Mother of God and about the saints who encompass and unite all the centuries. And I willingly repeat in this setting what I have said elsewhere: among Christian Churches and communities, it is undoubtedly the Orthodox who are theologically closest to us; Catholics and Orthodox have maintained the same basic structure inherited from the ancient Church; in this sense we are all the early Church that is still present and new. And so we dare to hope, even if humanly speaking constantly new difficulties arise, that the day may still be not too far away when we may once again celebrate the Eucharist together (cf. "Light of the World. A Conversation with Peter Seewald," p. 86).
With interest and sympathy the Catholic Church -- and I personally -- follow the development of Orthodox communities in Western Europe, which in recent decades have grown remarkably. In Germany today, as I have learned, there are approximately 1.6 million Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians. They have become a constitutive part of society that helps bring alive the treasury of the Christian cultures and the Christian faith of Europe. I welcome the increase of pan-Orthodox cooperation, which has made significant progress in recent years. The founding of Orthodox Episcopal Conferences in places where the Orthodox Churches exist in the Diaspora -- of which you spoke to us -- is an expression of the consolidation of intra-Orthodox relations. I am pleased that this step has been taken in Germany in the past year. May the work of these Episcopal Conferences strengthen the bond between the Orthodox Churches and hasten the progress of efforts to establish a pan-Orthodox council.
Since the time when I was a professor in Bonn and especially while I was Archbishop of Munich and Freising, I have come to know and love Orthodoxy more and more through my personal friendships with representatives of the Orthodox Churches. At that time the Joint Commission of the German Bishops' Conference and the Orthodox Church also began its work. Since then, through its texts on pastoral and practical questions, it has furthered mutual understanding and contributed to the consolidation and further development of Catholic-Orthodox relations in Germany.
Equally important is the ongoing work to clarify theological differences, because the resolution of these questions is indispensable for restoration of the full unity that we hope and pray for. We know that above all it is the question of primacy that we must continue patiently and humbly struggling to understand aright. In this regard, I think that the ideas put forward by Pope John Paul II in the Encyclical "Ut Unum Sint" (No. 95) on the distinction between the nature and form of the exercise of primacy can yield further fruitful discussion points.
I also express my appreciation of the work of the Mixed International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. I am glad, distinguished Eminences and Delegates of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, that you are here representing the Churches that are taking part in this dialogue. The results so far obtained allow us to grow in mutual understanding and to draw closer to one another.
In the present climate, in which many would like, as it were, to "liberate" public life from God, the Christian Churches in Germany -- including Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians -- are walking side by side along the path of peaceful witness for understanding and solidarity among peoples, on the basis of their faith in the one God and Father of all. At the same time they continue to place the miracle of God's incarnation at the center of their proclamation. Realizing that on this mystery all human dignity depends, they speak up jointly for the protection of human life from conception to natural death. Faith in God, the Creator of life, and unconditional adherence to the dignity of every human being strengthen faithful Christians to oppose vigorously every manipulative and selective intervention in the area of human life. Knowing too the value of marriage and the family, we as Christians attach great importance to defending the integrity and the uniqueness of marriage between one man and one woman from any kind of misinterpretation. Here the common engagement of Christians, including Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians, makes a valuable contribution to building up a society equipped for the future, in which the human person is given the respect which is his due.
Finally, I would like to direct our gaze towards Mary -- you presented her to us as the Panagia -- and she is also the Hodegetria, the "Guide along the Way," who is also venerated in the West under the title "Our Lady of the Way." The Most Holy Trinity has given the Virgin Mother Mary to mankind, that she might guide us through history with her intercession and point out to us the way towards fulfillment. To her we entrust ourselves and our prayer that we may become a community ever more intimately united in Christ, to the praise and glory of his name. May God bless you all! Thank you.
© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
"At the Foot of the Cross, Mary Becomes Our Fellow Traveler and Protector"
Reflection at Marian Shrine
September 23, 2011
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
I would like to greet all of you most warmly, all who have come here to Etzelsbach for this time of prayer. Ever since my youth I have heard so much about Eichsfeld that I thought at some point I must see it for myself and pray together with you. I offer sincere thanks to Bishop Wanke, who pointed out to me this strip of land from the aircraft, and I thank your speakers and representatives who have brought me gifts symbolic of this region, thereby giving me at least an indication of the variety that is found here.
So I am very glad that my wish to visit Eichsfeld has been fulfilled, and that here in Etzelsbach I can now thank Mary in company with you. "Here in the beloved quiet vale", as the pilgrims' hymn says, "under the old lime trees", Mary gives us security and new strength. During two godless dictatorships, which sought to deprive the people of their ancestral faith, the inhabitants of Eichsfeld were in no doubt that here in this shrine at Etzelsbach an open door and a place of inner peace was to be found. The special friendship with Mary that grew from all this, is what we seek to cultivate further, not least through today's celebration of Vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
When Christians of all times and places turn to Mary, they are acting on the spontaneous conviction that Jesus cannot refuse his mother what she asks; and they are relying on the unshakable trust that Mary is also our mother -- a mother who has experienced the greatest of all sorrows, who feels all our griefs with us and ponders in a maternal way how to overcome them. How many people down the centuries have made pilgrimages to Mary, in order to find comfort and strength before the image of the Mother of Sorrows, as here at Etzelsbach!
Let us look upon her likeness: a woman of middle age, her eyelids heavy with much weeping, gazing pensively into the distance, as if meditating in her heart upon everything that had happened. On her knees rests the lifeless body of her son, she holds him gently and lovingly, like a precious gift. We see the marks of the crucifixion on his bare flesh. The left arm of the corpse is pointing straight down.
Perhaps this sculpture of the Pietà, like so many others, was originally placed above an altar. The crucified Jesus would then be pointing with his outstretched arm to what was taking place on the altar, where the holy sacrifice that he had accomplished becomes present in the Eucharist.
A particular feature of the holy image of Etzelsbach is the position of Our Lord's body. In most representations of the Pietà, the dead Jesus is lying with his head facing left, so that the observer can see the wounded side of the Crucified Lord. Here in Etzelsbach, however, the wounded side is concealed, because the body is facing the other way. It seems to me that a deep meaning lies hidden in this representation, that only becomes apparent through silent contemplation: in the Etzelsbach image, the hearts of Jesus and his mother are turned to one another; the hearts come close to each other. They exchange their love. We know that the heart is also the seat of the deepest affection and the most intimate compassion. In Mary's heart there is room for the love that her divine Son wants to bestow upon the world.
Marian devotion focuses on contemplation of the relationship between the Mother and her divine Son. In their prayers and sufferings, in their thanksgiving and joy, the faithful have constantly discovered new dimensions and qualities which this mystery can help to disclose for us, for example when the image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is seen as a symbol of her deep and unreserved loving unity with Christ. It is not self-realization, the desire for self-possession and self-formation, that truly enables people to flourish, according to the model that modern life so often proposes to us, which easily turns into a sophisticated form of selfishness. Rather it is an attitude of self-giving, self-emptying, directed towards the heart of Mary and hence towards the heart of Christ and towards our neighbour: this is what enables us to find ourselves.
"We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose" (Rom 8:28), as we have just heard in the reading from the Letter to the Romans. With Mary, God has worked for good in everything, and he does not cease, through Mary, to cause good to spread further in the world.
Looking down from the Cross, from the throne of grace and salvation, Jesus gave us his mother Mary to be our mother. At the moment of his self-offering for mankind, he makes Mary as it were the channel of the rivers of grace that flow from the Cross. At the foot of the Cross, Mary becomes our fellow traveler and protector on life's journey. "By her motherly love she cares for her son's sisters and brothers who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home," as the Second Vatican Council expressed it (Lumen Gentium, 62). Yes indeed, in life we pass through high-points and low-points, but Mary intercedes for us with her Son and helps us to discover the power of his divine love, and to open ourselves to that love.
Our trust in the powerful intercession of the Mother of God and our gratitude for the help we have repeatedly experienced impel us, as it were, to think beyond the needs of the moment. What does Mary actually want to say to us, when she rescues us from some trial? She wants to help us grasp the breadth and depth of our Christian vocation. With a mother's tenderness, she wants to make us understand that our whole life should be a response to the love of our God, who is so rich in mercy. "Understand," she seems to say to us, "that God, who is the source of all that is good and who never desires anything other than your true happiness, has the right to demand of you a life that yields wholly and joyfully to his will, striving at the same time that others may do likewise." Where God is, there is a future.
Indeed -- when we allow God's love to pervade and to shape the whole of our lives, then heaven stands open. Then it is possible so to shape the present that it corresponds more and more to the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then the little things of everyday life acquire meaning, and great problems find solutions.
Confident of this, we pray to Mary; confident of this, we put our faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and God. Amen.
© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
"God is Increasingly Being Driven Out of Our Society"
Address to Germany's Evangelical Church
September 23, 2011
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As I begin to speak, I would like first of all to say how deeply grateful I am that we are able to come together. I am particularly grateful to you, my dear brother, Pastor Schneider, for receiving me and for the words with which you have welcomed me here among you. You have opened your heart and openly expressed a truly shared faith, a longing for unity. And we are also glad, for I believe that this session, our meetings here, are also being celebrated as the feast of our shared faith. Moreover, I would like to express my thanks to all of you for your gift in making it possible for us to speak with one another as Christians here, in this historic place.
As the Bishop of Rome, it is deeply moving for me to be meeting you here in the ancient Augustinian convent in Erfurt. As we have just heard, this is where Luther studied theology. This is where he was ordained a priest. Against his father's wishes, he did not continue the study of Law, but instead he studied theology and set off on the path towards priesthood in the Order of Saint Augustine. And on this path, he was not simply concerned with this or that. What constantly exercised him was the question of God, the deep passion and driving force of his whole life's journey. "How do I receive the grace of God?": this question struck him in the heart and lay at the foundation of all his theological searching and inner struggle. For Luther theology was no mere academic pursuit, but the struggle for oneself, which in turn was a struggle for and with God.
"How do I receive the grace of God?" The fact that this question was the driving force of his whole life never ceases to make a deep impression on me. For who is actually concerned about this today -- even among Christians? What does the question of God mean in our lives? In our preaching? Most people today, even Christians, set out from the presupposition that God is not fundamentally interested in our sins and virtues. He knows that we are all mere flesh. And insofar as people believe in an afterlife and a divine judgment at all, nearly everyone presumes for all practical purposes that God is bound to be magnanimous and that ultimately he mercifully overlooks our small failings. The question no longer troubles us. But are they really so small, our failings?
Is not the world laid waste through the corruption of the great, but also of the small, who think only of their own advantage? Is it not laid waste through the power of drugs, which thrives on the one hand on greed and avarice, and on the other hand on the craving for pleasure of those who become addicted? Is the world not threatened by the growing readiness to use violence, frequently masking itself with claims to religious motivation? Could hunger and poverty so devastate parts of the world if love for God and godly love of neighbor -- of his creatures, of men and women -- were more alive in us? I could go on. No, evil is no small matter. Were we truly to place God at the centre of our lives, it could not be so powerful. The question: what is God's position towards me, where do I stand before God? -- Luther's burning question must once more, doubtless in a new form, become our question too, not an academic question, but a real one. In my view, this is the first summons we should attend to in our encounter with Martin Luther.
Another important point: God, the one God, creator of heaven and earth, is no mere philosophical hypothesis regarding the origins of the universe. This God has a face, and he has spoken to us. He became one of us in the man Jesus Christ -- who is both true God and true man. Luther's thinking, his whole spirituality, was thoroughly Christocentric: "What promotes Christ's cause" was for Luther the decisive hermeneutical criterion for the exegesis of sacred Scripture. This presupposes, however, that Christ is at the heart of our spirituality and that love for him, living in communion with him, is what guides our life.
Now perhaps one might say: all well and good, but what has this to do with our ecumenical situation? Could this just be an attempt to talk our way past the urgent problems that are still waiting for practical progress, for concrete results? I would respond by saying that the first and most important thing for ecumenism is that we keep in view just how much we have in common, not losing sight of it amid the pressure towards secularization -- everything that makes us Christian in the first place and continues to be our gift and our task. It was the error of the Reformation period that for the most part we could only see what divided us and we failed to grasp existentially what we have in common in terms of the great deposit of sacred Scripture and the early Christian creeds. For me, the great ecumenical step forward of recent decades is that we have become aware of all this common ground, that we acknowledge it as we pray and sing together, as we make our joint commitment to the Christian ethos in our dealings with the world, as we bear common witness to the God of Jesus Christ in this world as our inalienable, shared foundation.
To be sure, the risk of losing it is not unreal. I would like to make two brief points here. The geography of Christianity has changed dramatically in recent times, and is in the process of changing further. Faced with a new form of Christianity, which is spreading with overpowering missionary dynamism, sometimes in frightening ways, the mainstream Christian denominations often seem at a loss. This is a form of Christianity with little institutional depth, little rationality and even less dogmatic content, and with little stability. This worldwide phenomenon -- that bishops from all over the world are constantly telling me about -- poses a question to us all: what is this new form of Christianity saying to us, for better and for worse? In any event, it raises afresh the question about what has enduring validity and what can or must be changed -- the question of our fundamental faith choice.
The second challenge to worldwide Christianity of which I wish to speak is more profound and in our country more controversial: the secularized context of the world in which we Christians today have to live and bear witness to our faith. God is increasingly being driven out of our society, and the history of revelation that Scripture recounts to us seems locked into an ever more remote past. Are we to yield to the pressure of secularization, and become modern by watering down the faith? Naturally faith today has to be thought out afresh, and above all lived afresh, so that it is suited to the present day. Yet it is not by watering the faith down, but by living it today in its fullness that we achieve this. This is a key ecumenical task in which we have to help one another: developing a deeper and livelier faith. It is not strategy that saves us and saves Christianity, but faith -- thought out and lived afresh; through such faith, Christ enters this world of ours, and with him, the living God. As the martyrs of the Nazi era brought us together and prompted that great initial ecumenical opening, so today, faith that is lived from deep within amid a secularized world is the most powerful ecumenical force that brings us together, guiding us towards unity in the one Lord. And we pray to him, asking that we may learn to live the faith anew, and that in this way we may then become one.
© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
"We Believers Have a Special Contribution to Make Toward Building a Better World"
Address to Muslim Leaders
September 23, 2011
Dear Muslim Friends,
I am glad to be able to welcome you here, as the representatives of different Muslim communities in Germany. I thank Professor Mouhanad Khorchide most sincerely for his kind greetings and for the profound reflections that he shared with us. His words illustrate what a climate of respect and trust has grown up between the Catholic Church and the Muslim communities in Germany and how the convictions we share are becoming visible.
Berlin is a good place for a meeting like this, not only because the oldest mosque in Germany is located here, but also because Berlin has the largest Muslim population of all the cities in Germany.
From the 1970s onwards, the presence of numerous Muslim families has increasingly become a distinguishing mark of this country. Constant effort is needed in order to foster better mutual acquaintance and understanding. Not only is this important for peaceful coexistence, but also for the contribution that each can make towards building up the common good in this society.
Many Muslims attribute great importance to the religious dimension of life. At times this is thought provocative in a society that tends to marginalize religion or at most to assign it a place among the individual’s private choices.
The Catholic Church firmly advocates that due recognition be given to the public dimension of religious adherence. In an overwhelmingly pluralist society, this demand is not unimportant. In the process, care must be taken to guarantee that the other is always treated with respect. This mutual respect grows only on the basis of agreement on certain inalienable values that are proper to human nature, in particular the inviolable dignity of every single person as created by God. Such agreement does not limit the expression of individual religions; on the contrary, it allows each person to bear witness explicitly to what he believes, not avoiding comparison with others.
In Germany – as in many other countries, not only Western ones – this common frame of reference is articulated by the Constitution, whose juridical content is binding on every citizen, whether he belong to a faith community or not.
Naturally, discussion over the best formulation of principles like freedom of public worship is vast and open-ended, yet it is significant that the German Basic Law expresses them in a way that is still valid today at a distance of over sixty years (cf. Art. 4:2). In this law we find above all the common ethos that lies at the heart of human coexistence and that also in a certain way pervades the apparently formal rules of operation of the institutions of democratic life.
We could ask ourselves how such a text – drawn up in a radically different historical epoch, that is to say in an almost uniformly Christian cultural situation – is also suited to present-day Germany, situated as it is within a globalized world and marked as it is by a remarkable degree of pluralism in the area of religious belief.
The reason for this seems to me to lie in the fact that the fathers of the Basic Law at that important moment were fully conscious of the need to find truly solid ground with which all citizens would be able to identify and which could serve as the supporting foundation for everyone, irrespective of their differences. In seeking this, mindful of human dignity and responsibility before God, they did not prescind from their own religious beliefs; indeed for many of them, the real source of inspiration was the Christian vision of man. But they knew that everyone has to engage with the followers of other religions and none: common ground for all was found in the recognition of some inalienable rights that are proper to human nature and precede every positive formulation.
In this way, a society which at that time was essentially homogenous laid the foundations that we today may consider valid for a markedly pluralistic era, foundations that actually point out the evident limits of pluralism: it is inconceivable, in fact, that a society could survive in the long term without consensus on fundamental ethical values.
Dear friends, on the basis of what I have outlined here, it seems to me that there can be fruitful collaboration between Christians and Muslims. In the process, we help to build a society that differs in many respects from what we brought with us from the past. As believers, setting out from our respective convictions, we can offer an important witness in many key areas of life in society. I am thinking, for example, of the protection of the family based on marriage, respect for life in every phase of its natural course or the promotion of greater social justice.
This is another reason why I think it important to hold a day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world, which as you know we plan to do on 27 October next in Assisi, twenty-five years after the historic meeting there led by my predecessor, Blessed Pope John Paul II. Through this gathering, we wish to express, with simplicity, that we believers have a special contribution to make towards building a better world, while acknowledging that if our actions are to be effective, we need to grow in dialogue and mutual esteem.
With these sentiments I renew my sincere greetings and I thank you for this meeting, which for me has been a great enrichment of my visit to my homeland. Thank you for your attention!
© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
"Strengthen Our Common Hope in God in the Midst of an Increasingly Secularized Society"
Address to Berlin's Jewish Leaders
September 22, 2011
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am truly glad to be taking part in this meeting with you here in Berlin. I warmly thank President Dr Dieter Graumann for his kind and thoughtful words. They make it very clear to me how much trust has grown between the Jewish people and the Catholic Church, who hold in common a not insignificant part of their essential traditions, as you emphasized. At the same time it is clear to us all that a loving relationship of mutual understanding between Israel and the Church, each respecting the essence of the other, still has further to grow and needs to be built into the heart of our proclamation of the faith.
On my visit to the Synagogue in Cologne six years ago, Rabbi Teitelbaum spoke of remembrance as one of the supporting pillars that are needed if a future of peace is to be built. And today I find myself in a central place of remembrance, the appalling remembrance that it was from here that the Shoah, the annihilation of our Jewish fellow citizens in Europe, was planned and organized. Before the Nazi terror, there were about half a million Jews living in Germany, and they formed a stable component of German society.
After the Second World War, Germany was considered the "Land of the Shoah" where, for a Jew, it had become virtually impossible to live. Initially there were hardly any efforts to re-establish the old Jewish communities, even though Jewish individuals and families were constantly arriving from the East. Many of them wanted to emigrate and build a new life, especially in the United States or Israel.
In this place, remembrance must also be made of the Kristallnacht that took place from 9 to 10 November 1938. Only a few could see the full extent of this act of contempt for humanity, like the Berlin Cathedral Provost, Bernhard Lichtenberg, who cried out from the pulpit of Saint Hedwig's Cathedral: "Outside, the Temple is burning – that too is the house of God". The Nazi reign of terror was based on a racist myth, part of which was the rejection of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Jesus Christ and of all who believe in him. The supposedly "almighty" Adolf Hitler was a pagan idol, who wanted to take the place of the biblical God, the Creator and Father of all men. Refusal to heed this one God always makes people heedless of human dignity as well. What man is capable of when he rejects God, and what the face of a people can look like when it denies this God, the terrible images from the concentration camps at the end of the war showed.
In the light of this remembrance, it is to be acknowledged with thankfulness that a new development has been seen in recent decades, which makes it possible to speak of a real blossoming of Jewish life in Germany. It should be stressed that the Jewish community during this time has made particularly laudable efforts to integrate the Eastern European immigrants.
I would also like to express my gratitude for the deepening dialogue between the Catholic Church and Judaism. The Church feels a great closeness to the Jewish people. With the Declaration Nostra Aetate of the Second Vatican Council, an "irrevocable commitment to pursue the path of dialogue, fraternity and friendship" was made (cf. Address in the Synagogue in Rome, 17 January 2010). This is true of the Catholic Church as a whole, in which Blessed John Paul II committed himself to this new path with particular zeal. Naturally it is also true of the Catholic Church in Germany, which is conscious of its particular responsibility in this regard. In the public domain, special mention should be made of the "Week of Fraternity", organized each year during the first week of March by local Societies for Christian-Jewish Partnership.
On the Catholic side there are also annual meetings between bishops and rabbis as well as structured conversations with the Central Council of Jews. Back in the 1970s, the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) took the initiative of establishing a "Jews and Christians" forum, which over the years has issued many well-written and helpful documents. Nor should I omit to mention the historic meeting for Jewish-Christian dialogue that took place in March 2006 with the participation of Cardinal Walter Kasper. That cooperation is proving fruitful.
Alongside these important initiatives, it seems to me that we Christians must also become increasingly aware of our own inner affinity with Judaism, to which you made reference. For Christians, there can be no rupture in salvation history. Salvation comes from the Jews (cf. Jn4:22). When Jesus' conflict with the Judaism of his time is superficially interpreted as a breach with the Old Covenant, it tends to be reduced to the idea of a liberation that mistakenly views the Torah merely as a slavish enactment of rituals and outward observances.
Yet in actual fact, the Sermon on the Mount does not abolish the Mosaic Law, but reveals its hidden possibilities and allows more radical demands to emerge. It points us towards the deepest source of human action, the heart, where choices are made between what is pure and what is impure, where faith, hope and love blossom forth.
The message of hope contained in the books of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament has been appropriated and continued in different ways by Jews and Christians. "After centuries of antagonism, we now see it as our task to bring these two ways of rereading the biblical texts – the Christian way and the Jewish way – into dialogue with one another, if we are to understand God's will and his word aright" (Jesus of Nazareth. Part Two: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, pp. 33f.). This dialogue should serve to strengthen our common hope in God in the midst of an increasingly secularized society. Without this hope, society loses its humanity.
All in all, we may conclude that the exchanges between the Catholic Church and Judaism in Germany have already borne promising fruits. Enduring relations of trust have been forged. Jews and Christians certainly have a shared responsibility for the development of society, which always includes a religious dimension. May all those taking part in this journey move forward together. To this end, may the One and Almighty, Ha Kadosch Baruch Hu, grant his blessing. I thank you.
© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
"The Listening Heart: Reflections on the Foundations of Law"
Address to Germany's Lower House of Parliament
September 22, 2011
Mr President of the Federal Republic,
Mr President of the Bundestag,
Madam President of the Bundesrat,
Ladies and Gentlemen Members of the House,
It is an honour and a joy for me to speak before this distinguished house, before the Parliament of my native Germany, that meets here as a democratically elected representation of the people, in order to work for the good of the Federal Republic of Germany. I should like to thank the President of the Bundestag both for his invitation to deliver this address and for the kind words of greeting and appreciation with which he has welcomed me. At this moment I turn to you, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, not least as your fellow-countryman who for all his life has been conscious of close links to his origins, and has followed the affairs of his native Germany with keen interest. But the invitation to give this address was extended to me as Pope, as the Bishop of Rome, who bears the highest responsibility for Catholic Christianity. In issuing this invitation you are acknowledging the role that the Holy See plays as a partner within the community of peoples and states. Setting out from this international responsibility that I hold, I should like to propose to you some thoughts on the foundations of a free state of law.
Allow me to begin my reflections on the foundations of law [Recht] with a brief story from sacred Scripture. In the First Book of the Kings, it is recounted that God invited the young King Solomon, on his accession to the throne, to make a request. What will the young ruler ask for at this important moment? Success – wealth – long life – destruction of his enemies? He chooses none of these things. Instead, he asks for a listening heart so that he may govern God’s people, and discern between good and evil (cf. 1 Kg 3:9).
Through this story, the Bible wants to tell us what should ultimately matter for a politician. His fundamental criterion and the motivation for his work as a politician must not be success, and certainly not material gain. Politics must be a striving for justice, and hence it has to establish the fundamental preconditions for peace. Naturally a politician will seek success, without which he would have no opportunity for effective political action at all. Yet success is subordinated to the criterion of justice, to the will to do what is right, and to the understanding of what is right. Success can also be seductive and thus can open up the path towards the falsification of what is right, towards the destruction of justice. "Without justice – what else is the State but a great band of robbers?", as Saint Augustine once said. We Germans know from our own experience that these words are no empty spectre. We have seen how power became divorced from right, how power opposed right and crushed it, so that the State became an instrument for destroying right – a highly organized band of robbers, capable of threatening the whole world and driving it to the edge of the abyss. To serve right and to fight against the dominion of wrong is and remains the fundamental task of the politician. At a moment in history when man has acquired previously inconceivable power, this task takes on a particular urgency. Man can destroy the world. He can manipulate himself. He can, so to speak, make human beings and he can deny them their humanity. How do we recognize what is right? How can we discern between good and evil, between what is truly right and what may appear right? Even now, Solomon’s request remains the decisive issue facing politicians and politics today.
For most of the matters that need to be regulated by law, the support of the majority can serve as a sufficient criterion. Yet it is evident that for the fundamental issues of law, in which the dignity of man and of humanity is at stake, the majority principle is not enough: everyone in a position of responsibility must personally seek out the criteria to be followed when framing laws. In the third century, the great theologian Origen provided the following explanation for the resistance of Christians to certain legal systems: "Suppose that a man were living among the Scythians, whose laws are contrary to the divine law, and was compelled to live among them ... such a man for the sake of the true law, though illegal among the Scythians, would rightly form associations with like-minded people contrary to the laws of the Scythians."
This conviction was what motivated resistance movements to act against the Nazi regime and other totalitarian regimes, thereby doing a great service to justice and to humanity as a whole. For these people, it was indisputably evident that the law in force was actually unlawful. Yet when it comes to the decisions of a democratic politician, the question of what now corresponds to the law of truth, what is actually right and may be enacted as law, is less obvious. In terms of the underlying anthropological issues, what is right and may be given the force of law is in no way simply self-evident today. The question of how to recognize what is truly right and thus to serve justice when framing laws has never been simple, and today in view of the vast extent of our knowledge and our capacity, it has become still harder.
How do we recognize what is right? In history, systems of law have almost always been based on religion: decisions regarding what was to be lawful among men were taken with reference to the divinity. Unlike other great religions, Christianity has never proposed a revealed law to the State and to society, that is to say a juridical order derived from revelation. Instead, it has pointed to nature and reason as the true sources of law – and to the harmony of objective and subjective reason, which naturally presupposes that both spheres are rooted in the creative reason of God. Christian theologians thereby aligned themselves with a philosophical and juridical movement that began to take shape in the second century B.C. In the first half of that century, the social natural law developed by the Stoic philosophers came into contact with leading teachers of Roman Law. Through this encounter, the juridical culture of the West was born, which was and is of key significance for the juridical culture of mankind. This pre-Christian marriage between law and philosophy opened up the path that led via the Christian Middle Ages and the juridical developments of the Age of Enlightenment all the way to the Declaration of Human Rights and to our German Basic Law of 1949, with which our nation committed itself to "inviolable and inalienable human rights as the foundation of every human community, and of peace and justice in the world".
For the development of law and for the development of humanity, it was highly significant that Christian theologians aligned themselves against the religious law associated with polytheism and on the side of philosophy, and that they acknowledged reason and nature in their interrelation as the universally valid source of law. This step had already been taken by Saint Paul in the Letter to the Romans, when he said: "When Gentiles who have not the Law [the Torah of Israel] do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves ... they show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness ..." (Rom 2:14f.). Here we see the two fundamental concepts of nature and conscience, where conscience is nothing other than Solomon’s listening heart, reason that is open to the language of being. If this seemed to offer a clear explanation of the foundations of legislation up to the time of the Enlightenment, up to the time of the Declaration on Human Rights after the Second World War and the framing of our Basic Law, there has been a dramatic shift in the situation in the last half-century.
The idea of natural law is today viewed as a specifically Catholic doctrine, not worth bringing into the discussion in a non-Catholic environment, so that one feels almost ashamed even to mention the term. Let me outline briefly how this situation arose. Fundamentally it is because of the idea that an unbridgeable gulf exists between "is" and "ought". An "ought" can never follow from an "is", because the two are situated on completely different planes. The reason for this is that in the meantime, the positivist understanding of nature has come to be almost universally accepted. If nature – in the words of Hans Kelsen – is viewed as "an aggregate of objective data linked together in terms of cause and effect", then indeed no ethical indication of any kind can be derived from it. A positivist conception of nature as purely functional, as the natural sciences consider it to be, is incapable of producing any bridge to ethics and law, but once again yields only functional answers. The same also applies to reason, according to the positivist understanding that is widely held to be the only genuinely scientific one. Anything that is not verifiable or falsifiable, according to this understanding, does not belong to the realm of reason strictly understood. Hence ethics and religion must be assigned to the subjective field, and they remain extraneous to the realm of reason in the strict sense of the word. Where positivist reason dominates the field to the exclusion of all else – and that is broadly the case in our public mindset – then the classical sources of knowledge for ethics and law are excluded. This is a dramatic situation which affects everyone, and on which a public debate is necessary. Indeed, an essential goal of this address is to issue an urgent invitation to launch one.
The positivist approach to nature and reason, the positivist world view in general, is a most important dimension of human knowledge and capacity that we may in no way dispense with. But in and of itself it is not a sufficient culture corresponding to the full breadth of the human condition. Where positivist reason considers itself the only sufficient culture and banishes all other cultural realities to the status of subcultures, it diminishes man, indeed it threatens his humanity. I say this with Europe specifically in mind, where there are concerted efforts to recognize only positivism as a common culture and a common basis for law-making, reducing all the other insights and values of our culture to the level of subculture, with the result that Europe vis-à-vis other world cultures is left in a state of culturelessness and at the same time extremist and radical movements emerge to fill the vacuum. In its self-proclaimed exclusivity, the positivist reason which recognizes nothing beyond mere functionality resembles a concrete bunker with no windows, in which we ourselves provide lighting and atmospheric conditions, being no longer willing to obtain either from God’s wide world. And yet we cannot hide from ourselves the fact that even in this artificial world, we are still covertly drawing upon God’s raw materials, which we refashion into our own products. The windows must be flung open again, we must see the wide world, the sky and the earth once more and learn to make proper use of all this.
But how are we to do this? How do we find our way out into the wide world, into the big picture? How can reason rediscover its true greatness, without being sidetracked into irrationality? How can nature reassert itself in its true depth, with all its demands, with all its directives? I would like to recall one of the developments in recent political history, hoping that I will neither be misunderstood, nor provoke too many one-sided polemics. I would say that the emergence of the ecological movement in German politics since the 1970s, while it has not exactly flung open the windows, nevertheless was and continues to be a cry for fresh air which must not be ignored or pushed aside, just because too much of it is seen to be irrational. Young people had come to realize that something is wrong in our relationship with nature, that matter is not just raw material for us to shape at will, but that the earth has a dignity of its own and that we must follow its directives. In saying this, I am clearly not promoting any particular political party – nothing could be further from my mind. If something is wrong in our relationship with reality, then we must all reflect seriously on the whole situation and we are all prompted to question the very foundations of our culture. Allow me to dwell a little longer on this point.
The importance of ecology is no longer disputed. We must listen to the language of nature and we must answer accordingly. Yet I would like to underline a point that seems to me to be neglected, today as in the past: there is also an ecology of man. Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he respects his nature, listens to it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled.
Let us come back to the fundamental concepts of nature and reason, from which we set out. The great proponent of legal positivism, Kelsen, at the age of 84 – in 1965 – abandoned the dualism of "is" and "ought". (I find it comforting that rational thought is evidently still possible at the age of 84!) Previously he had said that norms can only come from the will. Nature therefore could only contain norms, he adds, if a will had put them there. But this, he says, would presuppose a Creator God, whose will had entered into nature. "Any attempt to discuss the truth of this belief is utterly futile", he observed. Is it really? – I find myself asking. Is it really pointless to wonder whether the objective reason that manifests itself in nature does not presuppose a creative reason, a Creator Spiritus?
At this point Europe’s cultural heritage ought to come to our assistance. The conviction that there is a Creator God is what gave rise to the idea of human rights, the idea of the equality of all people before the law, the recognition of the inviolability of human dignity in every single person and the awareness of people’s responsibility for their actions. Our cultural memory is shaped by these rational insights. To ignore it or dismiss it as a thing of the past would be to dismember our culture totally and to rob it of its completeness. The culture of Europe arose from the encounter between Jerusalem, Athens and Rome – from the encounter between Israel’s monotheism, the philosophical reason of the Greeks and Roman law. This three-way encounter has shaped the inner identity of Europe. In the awareness of man’s responsibility before God and in the acknowledgment of the inviolable dignity of every single human person, it has established criteria of law: it is these criteria that we are called to defend at this moment in our history.
As he assumed the mantle of office, the young King Solomon was invited to make a request. How would it be if we, the law-makers of today, were invited to make a request? What would we ask for? I think that, even today, there is ultimately nothing else we could wish for but a listening heart – the capacity to discern between good and evil, and thus to establish true law, to serve justice and peace. I thank you for your attention!
 Contra Celsum, Book 1, Chapter 1. Cf. A. Fürst, "Monotheismus und Monarchie. Zum Zusammenhang von Heil und Herrschaft in der Antike", Theol.Phil. 81 (2006), pp. 321-338, quoted on p. 336; cf. also J. Ratzinger, Die Einheit der Nationen. Eine Vision der Kirchenväter (Salzburg and Munich, 1971), p. 60.
 Cf. W. Waldstein, Ins Herz geschrieben. Das Naturrecht als Fundament einer menschlichen Gesellschaft (Augsburg, 2010), pp. 11ff., 31-61.
 Cf. Waldstein, op. cit., pp. 15-21.
 Cf. Waldstein, op. cit., p. 19.
© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
"I have come to "speak about God"
Bellevue Castle, Berlín
September 22, 2011
Mr President of the Federal Republic,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honoured by the kind welcome which you have given to me here in Bellevue Castle. I am particularly grateful to you, President Wulff, for inviting me to make this official visit, which marks the third time I have come as Pope to the Federal Republic of Germany. I thank you most heartily for your cordial words of welcome. I am likewise grateful to the representatives of the Federal Government, the Bundestag, the Bundesrat, and the City of Berlin for their presence, which signifies their respect for the Pope as the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Last but not not least, I thank the three Bishops who are my hosts, Archbishop Woelki of Berlin, Bishop Wanke of Erfurt and Archbishop Zollitsch of Freiburg, and all those at the various ecclesial and civil levels who helped in preparing this visit to my native land and contributed to its happy outcome.
Even though this journey is an official visit which will reinforce the good relations existing between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Holy See, I have not come here primarily to pursue particular political or economic goals, as other statesmen rightly do, but rather to meet people and to speak about God.
We are witnessing a growing indifference to religion in society, which considers the issue of truth as something of an obstacle in its decision-making, and instead gives priority to utilitarian considerations.
All the same, a binding basis for our coexistence is needed; otherwise people live in a purely individualistic way. Religion is one of these foundations for a successful social life. “Just as religion has need of freedom, so also freedom has need of religion.” These words of the great bishop and social reformer Wilhelm von Ketteler, the second centenary of whose birth is being celebrated this year, remain timely.
Freedom requires a primordial link to a higher instance. The fact that there are values which are not absolutely open to manipulation is the true guarantee of our freedom. The man who feels a duty to truth and goodness will immediately agree with this: freedom develops only in responsibility to a greater good. Such a good exists only for all of us together; therefore I must always be concerned for my neighbours. Freedom cannot be lived in the absence of relationships.
In human coexistence, freedom is impossible without solidarity. What I do at the expense of others is not freedom but a culpable way of acting which is harmful to others and also to myself. I can truly develop as a free person only by using my powers also for the welfare of others. This holds true not only in private matters but also for society as a whole. In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, society must give sufficient space for smaller structures to develop and, at the same time, must support them so that one day they will stand on their own.
Here in Bellevue Castle, named for its splendid view of the banks of the Spree and situated close to the Victory Column, the Bundestag and the Brandenburg Gate, we are in the very heart of Berlin, the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany. This castle, with its dramatic history – like many buildings of this city – is a testimony to the history of Germany. A clear look at the past, even at its dark pages, enables us to learn from it and to receive an impetus for the present. The Federal Republic of Germany has become what it is today thanks to the power of freedom shaped by responsibility before God and before one another. It needs this dynamism, which engages every human sector in order to continue developing now. It needs this in a world which requires a profound cultural renewal and the rediscovery of fundamental values upon which to build a better future (Caritas in Veritate, 21).
I trust that my meetings throughout this visit – here in Berlin, in Erfurt, in Eichsfeld and in Freiburg – can make a small contribution in this regard. In these days may God grant all of us his blessing.
"Where God Is, There is a Future"
Homily at Erfurt
September 24, 2011
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
"Praise the Lord at all times, for he is good." These are the words that we sang just before the Gospel. Yes, we truly have reason to thank God with all our heart. If we think back 30 years to the Elizabeth Year 1981, when this city formed part of the German Democratic Republic, who would have thought that a few years later, the wall and the barbed wire at the border would have come down? And if we think even further back, some 70 years, to the year 1941, in the days of National Socialism during the Second World War, who could have predicted that the "thousand-year Reich" would turn to dust and ashes just four years later?
Dear Brothers and Sisters, here in Thuringia and in the former German Democratic Republic, you have had to endure first a brown and then a red dictatorship, which acted on the Christian faith like acid rain. Many late consequences of that period are still having to be worked through, above all in the intellectual and religious fields. Most people in this country since that time have spent their lives far removed from faith in Christ and from the communion of the Church. Yet the last two decades have also brought good experiences: a broader horizon, an exchange that reaches beyond borders, a faithful confidence that God does not abandon us and that he leads us along new paths. "Where God is, there is a future."
We are all convinced that the new freedom has helped to give people greater dignity and to open up many new opportunities. On the part of the Church, we can point gratefully to many things that have become easier, whether it be new opportunities for parish activities, renovation and enlargement of churches and community centers, or diocesan initiatives of a pastoral or cultural nature. But the question naturally arises: have these opportunities led to an increase in faith? Are not the roots of faith and Christian life to be sought in something deeper than social freedom? It was actually amid the hardships of pressure from without that many committed Catholics remained faithful to Christ and to the Church. Where do we stand today? These people accepted personal disadvantages in order to live their faith.
Here I should like to thank the priests and the men and women who assisted them during that period. I would like to remember especially the pastoral care of refugees immediately after the Second World War: many priests and laypersons achieved great things in order to relieve the plight of those driven from their homes, and to provide them with a new home. Sincere thanks go not least to the parents who brought up their children in the Catholic faith in the midst of the diaspora and in an anticlerical political environment. With gratitude I would like to recall the Religious Weeks for Children during the holidays and the fruitful work of the Catholic youth centers "Saint Sebastian" in Erfurt and "Marcel Callo" in Heiligenstadt. Especially in Eichsfeld, many Catholic Christians resisted the Communist ideology. May God richly reward all of them for the tenacity of their faith. That courageous witness, that patient life with God, that patient trust in God’s guidance are like a precious seed that promises rich fruit for the future.
God’s presence is always seen especially clearly in the saints. Their witness to the faith can also give us the courage to begin afresh today. Above all, we may think of the patron saints of the Diocese of Erfurt: Saint Elizabeth of Thuringia, Saint Boniface and Saint Kilian. Elizabeth came from a foreign land, from Hungary, to the Wartburg here in Thuringia. She led an intense life of prayer, linked to the spirit of penance and evangelical poverty. She regularly went down from her castle into the town of Eisenach, in order to care personally for the poor and the sick. Her life on this earth was only short -- she was just twenty-four years old when she died -- but the fruits of her holiness have endured across the centuries. Saint Elizabeth is greatly esteemed also by Protestant Christians. She can help us all to discover the fullness of the faith, its beauty, its depth and its transforming and purifying power and to translate it into our everyday lives.
The founding of the Diocese of Erfurt in 742 by Saint Boniface reminds us of the Christian roots of our country. This event is also the first recorded mention of the city of Erfurt. The missionary bishop Boniface had come from England and it was characteristic of his approach that he worked in essential unity and in close association with the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Saint Peter; he knew that the Church must be one around Peter. We honor him as the "Apostle of Germany"; he died as a martyr. Two of his companions, who also bore witness by shedding their blood for the Christian faith, are buried here in the Cathedral of Erfurt: Saints Eoban and Adelar.
Even before the Anglo-Saxon missionaries, Saint Kilian, an itinerant missionary from Ireland, was at work in Thuringia. Together with two companions he died in Würzburg as a martyr, because he criticized the moral misconduct of the Duke of Thuringia who resided there. Nor must we forget Saint Severus, the patron saint of the Church here on the Cathedral Square: he was Bishop of Ravenna in the fourth century and his remains were brought to Erfurt in 836, in order to anchor the Christian faith more firmly in this region. From these saints, though they were dead, came forth the living witness of the Church that ever endures, the witness of faith that makes all times fruitful and shows us the path of life.
Let us ask, then, what do these saints have in common? How can we describe the particular quality of their lives and yet understand that it concerns us and can have an influence on our life too? Firstly, the saints show us that it is possible and good to live in a relationship with God, to live this relationship in a radical way, to put it in first place, not just to squeeze it into some corner of our lives. The saints help us to see that for his part God first reached out to us. We could not attain to him, we could not somehow reach out into the unknown, had he not first loved us, had he not first come towards us. After making himself known to our forefathers through the calling that he addressed to them, he revealed and continues to reveal himself to us in Jesus Christ. Still today Christ comes towards us, he speaks to every individual, just as he did in the Gospel, and invites every one of us to listen to him, to come to understand him and to follow him. This summons and this opportunity the saints acted on, they recognized the living God, they saw him, they listened to him and they went towards him, they traveled with him; they so to speak "caught" his contagious presence, they reached out to him in the ongoing dialogue of prayer, and in return they received from him the light that shows where true life is to be found.
Faith always includes as an essential element the fact that it is shared with others. No one can believe alone. We receive the faith -- as Saint Paul tells us -- through hearing, and hearing is part of being together, in spirit and in body. Only within this great assembly of believers of all times, who found Christ and were found by him, am I able to believe. In the first place I have God to thank for the fact that I can believe, for God approaches me and so to speak "ignites" my faith. But on a practical level, I have my fellow human beings to thank for my faith, those who believed before me and who believe with me. This great "with", apart from which there can be no personal faith, is the Church. And this Church does not stop at national borders, as we can see from the nationalities of the saints that I spoke of: Hungary, England, Ireland and Italy. Here we see the importance of spiritual exchange, which encompasses the entire universal Church. Indeed, it was fundamental for the development of the Church in our country, and it remains fundamental for all times: that we believe in union with one another across the continents, and learn to believe from one another. If we open ourselves up to the whole of the faith in all of history and the testimony given to it in the whole Church, then the Catholic faith also has a future as a public force in Germany. At the same time the saints that I mentioned show us the great fruitfulness of a life lived with God, the fruitfulness of this radical love for God and neighbour. Even when they are few in number, saints change the world, and great saints remain as forces for change throughout history.
Thus the political changes that swept through our country in 1989 were motivated not just by the demand for prosperity and freedom of movement, but decisively by the longing for truthfulness. This longing was kept awake partly through people completely dedicated to serving God and neighbor and ready to sacrifice their lives. They and the saints I mentioned earlier give us courage to make good use of this new situation. We have no wish to withdraw into a purely private faith, but we want to shape this hard-won freedom responsibly. Like Saints Kilian, Boniface, Adelar, Eoban and Elizabeth of Thuringia, we want to engage with our fellow citizens as Christians and invite them to discover with us the fullness of the Good News, its relevance for the present, its strength and vitality, and its beauty. Then we will resemble the famous bell of the Cathedral of Erfurt, which bears the name "Gloriosa," the "glorious." It is thought to be the largest free-swinging medieval bell in the world. It is a living sign of our deep rootedness in the Christian tradition, but also a summons to set out upon the mission. It will ring out once more today at this solemn Mass, to mark its conclusion. May it inspire us, after the example of the saints, to ensure that in this world, witness to Christ is both seen and heard, that God’s glory is both seen and heard, and that we live accordingly in a world where God is present and where he gives beauty and meaning to life. Amen.
© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
"In the Prayer of Jesus, We Find the Very Heart of Our Unity"
Homily at Ecumenical Prayer Service
September 24, 2011
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
"I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through them" (Jn 17:20). These words Jesus addressed to the Father in the Upper Room. He intercedes for coming generations of believers. He looks beyond the Upper Room, towards the future. He also prayed for us. And he prayed for our unity. This prayer of Jesus is not simply something from the past. He stands before the Father, forever making intercession for us. At this moment he also stands in our midst and he desires to draw us into his own prayer. In the prayer of Jesus we find the very heart of our unity. We will become one if we allow ourselves to be drawn into this prayer. Whenever we gather in prayer as Christians, Jesus' concern for us, and his prayer to the Father for us, ought to touch our hearts. The more we allow ourselves to be drawn into this event, the more we grow in unity.
Did Jesus' prayer go unheard? The history of Christianity is in some sense the visible element of this drama in which Christ strives and suffers with us human beings. Ever anew he must endure the rejection of unity, yet ever anew unity takes place with him and thus with the triune God. We need to see both things: the sin of human beings, who reject God and withdraw within themselves, but also the triumphs of God, who upholds the Church despite her weakness, constantly drawing men and women closer to himself and thus to one another. For this reason, in an ecumenical gathering, we ought not only to regret our divisions and separations, but we should also give thanks to God for all the elements of unity which he has preserved for us and bestows on us ever anew. And this gratitude must be at the same time a resolve not to lose, at a time of temptations and perils, the unity thus bestowed.
Our fundamental unity comes from the fact that we believe in God, the Father Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth. And that we confess that he is the triune God -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The highest unity is not the solitude of a monad, but rather a unity born of love. We believe in God -- the real God. We believe that God spoke to us and became one of us. To bear witness to this living God is our common task at the present time.
Does man need God, or can we do quite well without him? When, in the first phase of God's absence, his light continues to illumine and sustain the order of human existence, it appears that things can also function quite well without God. But the more the world withdraws from God, the clearer it becomes that man, in his hubris of power, in his emptiness of heart and in his longing for satisfaction and happiness, increasingly loses his life. A thirst for the infinite is indelibly present in human beings. Man was created to have a relationship with God; we need him. Our primary ecumenical service at this hour must be to bear common witness to the presence of the living God and in this way to give the world the answer which it needs. Naturally, an absolutely central part of this fundamental witness to God is a witness to Jesus Christ, true man and true God, who lived in our midst, suffered and died for us and, in his resurrection, flung open the gates of death. Dear friends, let us strengthen one another in this faith! This is a great ecumenical task which leads us into the heart of Jesus' prayer.
The seriousness of our faith in God is shown by the way we live his word. In our own day, it is shown in a very practical way by our commitment to that creature which he wished in his own image: to man. We live at a time of uncertainty about what it means to be human. Ethics are being replaced by a calculation of consequences. In the face of this, we as Christians must defend the inviolable dignity of human beings from conception to death -- from issues of pre-implantation diagnosis to the question of euthanasia. As Romano Guardini once put it: "Only those who know God, know man." Without knowledge of God, man is easily manipulated. Faith in God must take concrete form in a common defense of man. To this defense of man belong not only these fundamental criteria of what it means to be human, but above all and very specifically, love, as Jesus Christ taught us in the account of the final judgment (Mt 25): God will judge us on how we respond to our neighbor, to the least of his brethren. Readiness to help, amid the needs of the present time and beyond our immediate circle, is an essential task of the Christian.
As I mentioned, this is true first and foremost in our personal lives as individuals. But it also holds true in our community, as a people and a state in which we must all be responsible for one another. It holds true for our continent, in which we are called to European solidarity. Finally, it is true beyond all frontiers: today Christian love of neighbor also calls for commitment to justice throughout the world. I know that Germans and Germany are doing much to enable all men and women to live in dignity, and for this I would like to express deep gratitude.
In conclusion, I would like to mention an even deeper dimension of our commitment to love. The seriousness of our faith is shown especially when it inspires people to put themselves totally at the disposal of God and thus of other persons. Great acts of charity become concrete only when, on the ground, we find persons totally at the service of others; they make the love of God credible. People of this sort are an important sign of the truth of our faith.
Prior to my visit there was some talk of an "ecumenical gift" which was expected from such a visit. There is no need for me to specify the gifts mentioned in this context. Here I would only say that, in most of its manifestions, this reflects a political misreading of faith and of ecumenism. In general, when a Head of State visits a friendly country, contacts between the various parties take place beforehand to arrange one or more agreements between the two states: by weighing respective benefits and drawbacks a compromise is reached which in the end appears beneficial for both parties, so that a treaty can then be signed.
But the faith of Christians does not rest on such a weighing of benefits and drawbacks. A self-made faith is worthless. Faith is not something we work out intellectually and negotiate between us. It is the foundation for our lives. Unity grows not by the weighing of benefits and drawbacks but only by entering ever more deeply into the faith in our thoughts and in our lives. In the past fifty years, and especially after the visit of Pope John Paul II some thirty years ago, we have drawn much closer together, and for this we can only be grateful.
I willingly think of the meeting with the Commission led by Bishop Lohse, in which this kind of joint growth in reflecting upon and living the faith was practiced. To all those engaged in that process -- and especially, on the Catholic side, to Cardinal Lehmann -- I wish to express deep gratitude. I will refrain from mentioning other names -- the Lord knows them all. Together we can only thank the Lord for the paths of unity on which he has led us, and unite ourselves in humble trust to his prayer: Grant that we may all be one, as you are one with the Father, so that the world may believe that he has sent you (cf. Jn 17:21).
© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
"The Risen Lord Gives Us a Place of Refuge, a Place of Light"
Homily at Olympic Stadium
September 22, 2011
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As I look around the vast arena of the Olympic Stadium, where you have gathered today in such large numbers, my heart is filled with great joy and confidence. I greet all of you most warmly – the faithful from the Archdiocese of Berlin and the Dioceses of Germany as well as the many pilgrims from neighbouring countries. It was fifteen years ago that Berlin, the capital of Germany, was first visited by a Pope. We all remember vividly the visit of my venerable predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, and the beatification of the Berlin Cathedral Provost Bernhard Lichtenberg – together with Karl Leisner – here in this very place.
If we consider these beati and the great throng of those who have been canonized and beatified, we can understand what it means to live as branches of Christ, the true vine, and to bring forth rich fruit. Today’s Gospel puts before us once more the image of this climbing plant, that spreads so luxuriantly in the east, a symbol of vitality and a metaphor for the beauty and dynamism of Jesus’ fellowship with his disciples and friends.
In the parable of the vine, Jesus does not say: "You are the vine", but: "I am the vine, you are the branches" (Jn 15:5). In other words: "As the branches are joined to the vine, so you belong to me! But inasmuch as you belong to me, you also belong to one another." This belonging to each other and to him is not some ideal, imaginary, symbolic relationship, but – I would almost want to say – a biological, life-transmitting state of belonging to Jesus Christ. Such is the Church, this communion of life with him and for the sake of one another, a communion that is rooted in baptism and is deepened and given more and more vitality in the Eucharist. "I am the true vine" actually means: "I am you and you are I" – an unprecedented identification of the Lord with us, his Church.
On the road to Damascus, Christ himself asked Saul, the persecutor of the Church: "Why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:4). With these words the Lord expresses the common destiny that arises from his Church’s inner communion of life with himself, the risen Christ. He continues to live in his Church in this world. He is present among us, and we are with him. "Why do you persecute me?" It is Jesus, then, who is on the receiving end of the persecutions of his Church. At the same time, when we are oppressed for the sake of our faith, we are not alone: Jesus is with us.
Jesus says in the parable: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser" (Jn 15:1), and he goes on to explain that the vinedresser reaches for his knife, cuts off the withered branches and prunes the fruit-bearing ones, so that they bring forth more fruit. Expressed in terms of the image from the prophet Ezekiel that we heard in the first reading, God wants to take the dead heart of stone out of our breast in order to give us a living heart of flesh (cf. Ez 36:26). He wants to bestow new life upon us, full of vitality. Christ came to call sinners. It is they who need the doctor, not the healthy (cf. Lk 5:31f.). Hence, as the Second Vatican Council expresses it, the Church is the "universal sacrament of salvation" (Lumen Gentium, 48), existing for sinners in order to open up to them the path of conversion, healing and life. That is the Church’s true and great mission, entrusted to her by Christ.
Many people see only the outward form of the Church. This makes the Church appear as merely one of the many organizations within a democratic society, whose criteria and laws are then applied to the task of evaluating and dealing with such a complex entity as the "Church". If to this is added the sad experience that the Church contains both good and bad fish, wheat and darnel, and if only these negative aspects are taken into account, then the great and deep mystery of the Church is no longer seen.
It follows that belonging to this vine, the "Church", is no longer a source of joy. Dissatisfaction and discontent begin to spread, when people’s superficial and mistaken notions of "Church", their "dream Church", fail to materialize! Then we no longer hear the glad song "Thanks be to God who in his grace has called me into his Church" that generations of Catholics have sung with conviction.
The Lord’s discourse continues: "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me ... for apart from me [i.e. separated from me, or outside me] you can do nothing" (Jn 15:4f.).
Every one of us is faced with this choice. The Lord reminds us how much is at stake as he continues his parable: "If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned" (Jn 15:6). In this regard, Saint Augustine says: "The branch is suitable only for one of two things, either the vine or the fire: if it is not in the vine, its place will be in the fire; and that it may escape the latter, may it have its place in the vine" (In Ioan. Ev. Tract. 81:3 [PL 35, 1842]).
The decision that is required of us here makes us keenly aware of the existential significance of our life choices. At the same time, the image of the vine is a sign of hope and confidence. Christ himself came into this world through his incarnation, to be our root. Whatever hardship or drought befall us, he is the source that offers us the water of life, that feeds and strengthens us. He takes upon himself all our sins, anxieties and sufferings and he purifies and transforms us, in a way that is ultimately mysterious, into good wine. In such times of hardship we can sometimes feel as if we ourselves were in the wine-press, like grapes being utterly crushed. But we know that if we are joined to Christ we become mature wine. God can transform into love even the burdensome and oppressive aspects of our lives. It is important that we "abide" in Christ, in the vine. The evangelist uses the word "abide" a dozen times in this brief passage. This "abiding in Christ" characterizes the whole of the parable. In our era of restlessness and lack of commitment, when so many people lose their way and their grounding, when loving fidelity in marriage and friendship has become so fragile and short-lived, when in our need we cry out like the disciples on the road to Emmaus: "Lord, stay with us, for it is almost evening and darkness is all around us!" (cf. Lk 24:29), then the risen Lord gives us a place of refuge, a place of light, hope and confidence, a place of rest and security. When drought and death loom over the branches, then future, life and joy are to be found in Christ.
To abide in Christ means, as we saw earlier, to abide in the Church as well. The whole communion of the faithful has been firmly incorporated into the vine, into Christ. In Christ we belong together. Within this communion he supports us, and at the same time all the members support one another. They stand firm together against the storm and they offer one another protection. Those who believe are not alone. We do not believe alone, but we believe with the whole Church.
The Church, as the herald of God’s word and dispenser of the sacraments, joins us to Christ, the true vine. The Church as "fullness and completion of the Redeemer" (Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, AAS 35  p. 230: "plenitudo et complementum Redemptoris") is to us a pledge of divine life and mediator of those fruits of which the parable of the vine speaks. The Church is God’s most beautiful gift. Therefore Saint Augustine also says: "as much as any man loves the Church of Christ, so much has he the Holy Spirit" (In Ioan. Ev. Tract. 32:8 [PL 35:1646]). With and in the Church we may proclaim to all people that Christ is the source of life, that he exists, that he is the one for whom we long so much. He gives himself. Whoever believes in Christ has a future. For God has no desire for what is withered, dead,ersatz, and finally discarded: he wants what is fruitful and alive, he wants life in its fullness.
Dear Brothers and Sisters! My wish for all of you is that you may discover ever more deeply the joy of being joined to Christ in the Church, that you may find comfort and redemption in your time of need and that you may increasingly become the precious wine of Christ’s joy and love for this world. Amen.
© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana