- At 8.15 a.m. today theHoly Father departed from Ciampino airport in Rome. Following a two-hourflight, his place landed at Berlin-Tegel airport, thus beginning thetwenty-first international apostolic trip of his pontificate and his firstState visit to Germany.
On arriving inBerlin the Holy Father was greeted by a twenty-one gun salute, as per theprotocol for State visits, while Christian Wulff and Angela Merkel,respectively president and chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany,waited on the runway to greet him. Also present were Archbishop Rainer MariaWoelki of Berlin, and Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg im Breisgau,president of the German Bishops' Conference.
From the airportthe Pope travelled by car to Bellevue Castle, official residence of thepresident, where the welcome ceremony took place in the palace gardens.
"Even thoughthis journey is an official visit which will reinforce the good relationsexisting between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Holy See, I have notcome here primarily to pursue particular political or economic goals, as otherstatesmen rightly do, but rather to meet people and to speak about God",said the Pope in his address. "We are witnessing a growing indifference toreligion in society, which considers the issue of truth as something of anobstacle in its decision-making, and instead gives priority to utilitarianconsiderations.
"All thesame", he added, "a binding basis for our coexistence is needed;otherwise people live in a purely individualistic way. Religion is one of thesefoundations for a successful social life. 'Just as religion has need offreedom, so also freedom has need of religion'. These words of the great bishopand social reformer Wilhelm von Ketteler, the second centenary of whose birthis being celebrated this year, remain timely.
"Freedomrequires a primordial link to a higher instance. The fact that there are valueswhich are not absolutely open to manipulation is the true guarantee of ourfreedom", which "develops only in responsibility to a greater good.Such a good exists only for all of us together. ... In human coexistence,freedom is impossible without solidarity. ... This holds true not only inprivate matters but also for society as a whole. In accordance with theprinciple of subsidiarity, society must give sufficient space for smallerstructures to develop and, at the same time, must support them so that one daythey will stand on their own".
The Holy Fatherwent on: "Bellevue Castle, ... with its dramatic history (like manybuildings of this city) is a testimony to the history of Germany.
A clear look at the past, even at its dark pages, enablesus to learn from it and to receive an impetus for the present. The FederalRepublic of Germany has become what it is today thanks to the power of freedomshaped by responsibility before God and before one another. It needs thisdynamism, which engages every human sector in order to continue developing now.It needs this in a world which requires a profound cultural renewal and therediscovery of fundamental values upon which to build a better future".
Having completedhis address the Pope held a private meeting with President Wulff and hisfamily, after which he travelled to the headquarters of the German EpiscopalConference (DBK) where he was received by its president Archbishop RobertZollitsch. He then held a private meeting which Chancellor Merkel in the DBKlibrary, where they were later joined by her husband and members of herentourage. At the end of the meeting the Holy Father went by foot to therefectory of the nearby Catholic Academy where he had lunch.
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