September 22, 2011

Pope Benedict visits his homeland


by Jan Harris

Pope Benedict XVI today, who was born in Bavaria, today began a four day visit to his home country, with the aim of strengthening good relations between Germany and the Holy See.

At the welcoming ceremony, which was held at Bellevue Castle in Berlin, the Pope said: “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”.

As part of the itinerary for the first day of his visit, the Pope is meeting Jewish leaders at the historic Reichstag parliament.

Prior to the start of World War II, Berlin’s Jewish community was the largest in Germany, but many Jews left the city due to Nazi persecution and more than 60,000 Jews were deported.

Today’s meeting is therefore considered by many to be of great historical significance.

Dieter Graumann, the head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, told the Associated Press: “I think it is a wonderful sign that the pope is taking time right at the beginning of his busy schedule for us”.

“It is a signal of friendship, of big-heartedness and underlines that the relationship between the Roman Catholic church and Judaism has improved considerably in the past few decades,” he said.

Tomorrow the Pope will meet with the Muslim community.

Prior to his visit the Germany, Pope Benedict sent a telegram to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, calling for an “ethical renewal” in the country where Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is currently embroiled in a scandal.

He was allegedly entertained by lapdancers dressed as nuns at one of his “bunga bunga” parties.

There is growing unease Italy over austerity measures being imposed on citizens by a political class which is increasingly seen as corrupt.

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