Pope Benedict XVI- Audiences

General Audience
"My Deep Respect for the Great Religions, in Particular for Muslims"
H.H. Benedict XVI
September 20, 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today I wish to recall again different moments of the pastoral trip that the Lord allowed me to undertake last week to Bavaria. On sharing with you the emotions and sentiments felt when returning to those dearly beloved places, I feel the need first of all to thank God for having made possible this second visit to Germany and, for the first time, to Bavaria, my native land.

I also sincerely thank all those who worked with dedication and patience -- pastors, priests, pastoral agents, public authorities, organizers, security forces and volunteers -- so that each one of the events would unfold in the best possible way. As I said on my arrival at the Munich airport on Saturday, September 9, the purpose of the trip, remembering all those who contributed to form my personality, was to reaffirm and confirm, as Successor of the Apostle Peter, the close bonds that unite the See of Rome with the Church in Germany.

Therefore, the trip was not simply a "return" to the past, but also a providential opportunity to look to the future with hope. "Those who believe are never alone": The motto of the visit was meant to be an invitation to reflect on every baptized person's membership in the one Church of Christ, within which one is never alone, but in constant communion with God and all brothers.

The first stage was the city of Munich, known as "the metropolis with a heart" ("Weltstadt mit Herz"). In its historical center is the "Marienplatz," Mary's Square, in which arises the "Mariensaeule," the Virgin's Column, at the summit of which is the golden bronze statue of Mary.

I wished to begin my stay with the homage to the Patroness of Bavaria, as for me it has a highly significant value: In that square and before that Marian image, I was welcomed as archbishop some 30 years ago and I began my episcopal mission with a prayer to Mary; I returned there at the end of my mandate, before leaving for Rome. This time I wished to place myself once again at the foot of the "Mariensaeule" to implore the intercession and blessing of the Mother of God, not only for the city of Munich and for Bavaria, but for the whole Church and the entire world.

The following day, Sunday, I celebrated the Eucharist in the esplanade of the "Neue Messe" (New Fair) of Munich, among the faithful gathered in great numbers from different parts: Allowing myself to be guided by the Gospel passage of the day, I reminded everyone that especially today there is suffering from a certain "deafness" to God. We Christians have the task of proclaiming and witnessing to all, in a secularized world, the message of hope that faith offers us: In Jesus crucified, God, merciful Father, calls us to be his children and to overcome every form of hatred and violence in order to contribute to the definitive triumph of love.

"Make Us Strong in the Faith" was the motto of the meeting on Sunday afternoon with the first-Communion children and their young families, with the catechists and the other pastoral agents and persons who collaborate in the evangelization of the Diocese of Munich. Together, we celebrated Vespers in the historic cathedral, known as "Our Lady's Cathedral," where the relics of St. Benno are kept, patron of the city, in which I was ordained bishop in 1977.

I reminded the little ones and adults that God is not far from us, in some unreachable place of the universe; on the contrary, in Jesus, he came to establish a relationship of friendship with each one of us. Thanks to the constant commitment of its members, every Christian community and, in particular, the parish, is called to become a great family, able to advance united on the path of true life.

The day of Monday, September 11, was dedicated in large part to the visit to Altoetting, in the Diocese of Passau. This small city is known as the "heart of Bavaria" ("Herz Bayerns"), and there is kept the "Black Virgin," venerated in the "Gnadenkapelle" (Chapel of Graces), the object of numerous pilgrimages from Germany and nations of Central Europe.

In the vicinity is the Capuchin monastery of St. Anne, where St. Konrad Birndorfer lived, canonized by my venerated predecessor, Pope Pius XI, in the year 1934. With the numerous faithful present at the holy Mass, celebrated in the square next to the shrine, we reflected together on Mary's role in the work of salvation to learn from her helpful kindness, humility and the generous acceptance of the divine will.

Mary leads us to Jesus: This truth was even more visible, at the end of the divine Sacrifice, with the procession in which with the statue of the Virgin we went to the chapel of Eucharistic adoration ("Anbetungskapelle"), inaugurated on this occasion. The day closed with solemn Marian Vespers in the Basilica of St. Anne of Altoetting, with the presence of religious of Bavaria, together with members of the Work for Vocations.

The following day, Tuesday, in Regensburg, a diocese established by St. Boniface in 739 and which has St. Wolfgang as its patron, three important meetings took place. In the morning, holy Mass at the Islinger Feld, in which, taking up again the theme of the pastoral visit, "Those who believe are never alone," we reflected on the content of the symbol of faith. God, who is Father, wills to gather through Christ the whole of humanity in one single family, the Church. For this reason, those who believe are never alone: Those who believe need not be afraid of coming to a dead end.

Then, in the afternoon, I was in the cathedral of Regensburg, known also for its choir of "white voices," the "Domspatzen" (sparrows of the cathedral), who take pride in their 1,000 years of activity and which, for 30 years, was directed by my brother, Georg. The ecumenical celebration of Vespers took place there, in which numerous representatives of different Churches and ecclesial communities in Bavaria and members of the Ecumenical Commission of the German episcopal conference participated. It was a providential occasion to pray together to accelerate full unity among all Christ's disciples and to confirm the duty to proclaim our faith in Jesus Christ without attenuation, but in a total and clear manner, above all in our behavior of sincere love.

It was an especially beautiful experience for me that day to deliver a conference before a large auditorium of professors and students at the University of Regensburg, in which for many years I was professor. With joy I was able to meet once again with the university world which, during a long period of my life, was my spiritual homeland.

I had chosen as topic the question of the relationship between faith and reason. To introduce the auditorium to the dramatic and timely character of the argument, I quoted some words of a Christian-Islamic dialogue of the 14th century, in which the Christian interlocutor, the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, in an incomprehensibly brusque way for us, presented to the Islamic interlocutor the problem of the relationship between religion and violence.

Unfortunately, this quotation has given room to a misunderstanding. For the careful reader of my text it is clear that I did not wish at any time to make my own the negative words uttered by the medieval emperor in this dialogue and that its controversial content does not express my personal conviction. My intention was very different: Based on what Manuel II affirms afterward in a very positive way, with very beautiful words, about rationality in the transmission of the faith, I wished to explain that religion is not united to violence, but to reason.

The topic of my conference -- responding to the mission of the university -- was therefore the relationship between faith and reason: I wished to invite the Christian faith to dialogue with the modern world and to dialogue with all cultures and religions. I hope that on different occasions of my visit, as for example in Munich, where I underlined the importance of respecting what others consider sacred, my deep respect for the great religions, in particular for Muslims -- who 'adore the one God' and with whom we are engaged in "preserving and promoting together for all mankind social justice, moral values, peace and freedom" ("Nostra Aetate," No. 3) -- emerged clearly.

Therefore, I trust that, after the reactions of the first moment, my words at the University of Regensburg will represent an impulse and encouragement to a positive dialogue, including self-critical, both among religions, as well as between modern reason and Christians' faith.

In the morning of the following day, September 13, in the "Alte Kapelle" ("Old Chapel") of Regensburg, in which the miraculous image of Mary is kept, painted according to local tradition by the Evangelist Luke, I presided over a brief liturgy on the occasion of the blessing of the new organ.

Making use of the structure of this musical instrument, made up of many pipes of different dimension, but all well harmonized among themselves, I reminded those present of the need for all the various ministries, gifts and charisms in the ecclesial community to contribute, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to the formation of a unique harmony in praise of the Lord and in love for brothers.

The last stage, Thursday, September 14, was the city of Freising. I feel particularly linked to it, as I was ordained priest there precisely in its cathedral, dedicated to Mary Most Holy and St. Corbinian, the evangelizer of Bavaria. And precisely in the cathedral the last programmed ceremony was held, the meeting with priests and permanent deacons.

Reliving the emotions of my priestly ordination, I reminded those present of the duty to collaborate with the Lord to awaken new vocations that place themselves as the service of the "harvest," which also today is "plentiful," and I exhorted them to cultivate the interior life as pastoral priority so as not to lose contact with Christ, source of joy in the daily exertion of the ministry.

In the farewell ceremony, when once again thanking all those who had cooperated in the realization of the visit, I again confirmed its main purpose: to propose again to my fellow countrymen the eternal truths of the Gospel and to confirm believers in adherence to Christ, Son of God incarnated, dead and risen for us.

May Mary, Mother of the Church, help us to open our hearts and minds to the One who is "the Way, the Truth and the Life" (John 14:16). I have prayed for this and that is why I invite you all, dear brothers and sisters, to continue praying and I thank you for the affection with which you support me in my daily pastoral ministry. Thank you all.


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