Posted by: Fr Chris | September 19, 2011

Pope’s Visit to the “Heimat” (Homeland)

His Holiness is making an apostolic visit to Germany.  He says that he is going to help Germany rediscover the presence of God. His first days will be in the east, which is very important.  The Communist state of old East Germany did an excellent job of driving people out of church and away from faith.  Protestants number only 27% in the states which are the home of the Reformation ; Catholics number about 9% in the same states. And all of Germany is upset about the sexual abuse scandals. But the German bishops have been very honest and have published a great deal of information, more than any other country has, and they have issued apologies which are very strong in their wording.  So the papal visit will be focusing more on Catholic-Lutheran relations, the challenges to Christian faith in both the east and all of Germany, and encouraging the Catholic minority in the east. 

After Berlin, the pope is going to Erfurt. This city has a double significance: Martin Luther preached his reformation there at the Augustinian monastery in 1521 and Catholicism was nearly wiped out. But in 1530 a treaty was signed giving the Catholic minority permission to worship. These survivors built Catholic strongholds  in places like Eichsfeld and Etzelbach  (also to be visited) which provided the seed for the Catholic Church to survive in the Lutheran states.  What they learned in 400 years of Lutheran rule was applied to 43 years of communist rule, and helped the Catholic Church to endure.  

But in Erfurt the Pope is going to focus on the Lutheran church. There will be a meeting and prayer service with representatives of the Evangelical Church of Germany, its official title, and the Lutherans are very excited about this visit.  There have been many articles in the German press about this meeting. 

Here is something to think about today. This statement by His Holiness is well worth reading by Americans: 

“This [trip] is not religious tourism; still less is it a ‘show’. Its significance is well expressed in the motto accompanying these days: ‘Where God is, there lies the future’. What this means is that we must restore God to our horizon, the God Who is so often absent but of Whom we have such great need.

   “You may ask me: ‘But, does God exist? And if He exists does He really concern Himself with us? Can we reach Him?’ It is, indeed, true that we cannot place God on the table, we cannot touch Him or pick Him up like an ordinary object.We must rediscover our capacity to perceive God, a capacity that exists within us. We can get some idea of the greatness of God in the greatness of the Cosmos.

We can use the world through technology because the world is built in a rational way; and in the great rationality of the world we can get some idea of the Creator Spirit from which it comes; in the beauty of creation we can get some idea of the beauty, the greatness and the goodness of God. In Holy Scripture we hear the words of eternal life; they do not simply come from men, they come from Him and in them we hear His voice. Finally, we may also catch some glimpse of God through meeting people who have been touched by Him. I am not just thinking of the great (of Paul, Francis of Assisi or Mother Teresa), I am thinking of the many simple people about whom nobody speaks. Yet when we meet them they emanate some quality of goodness, sincerity and joy, and we know that God is there and that He also touches us. Thus, over these days, let us commit ourselves to seeing God again, to becoming people who bring the light of hope into the world, a light that comes from God and that helps us to live”

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