Pope Benedict XVI- Audiences
"My Deep Respect for the Great Religions, in Particular for
H.H. Benedict XVI
September 20, 2006
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
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
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
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
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
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'
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
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