Interview with the Pope on Flight bound for Germany

"How much do you still feel yourself to be German, and in what aspects do your origins still influence you?"
by VIS | Source: VIS


This morning, as is traditional on his apostolic trips abroad, Benedict XVI granted a brief interview to journalists accompanying him on the flight to Germany.


  The first question put to the Pope was: "How much do you still feel yourself to be German, and in what aspects do your origins still influence you?"


  The Pope replied: "I was born in Germany and that root cannot and must not be severed. I received my cultural formation in Germany, my native language is German and language is the way in which the spirit lives and works. ... The fact of my being German is a vital part of the cultural framework of my life. My attachment to the country's history, with all its greatness and its failings, cannot and must not be denied. As a Christian, however, another question arises: through Baptism we are born anew, we are born into a new people with includes all peoples. ... And when, in this people, we take on a great responsibility, as I have done in taking on the supreme responsibility,... the root becomes a tree which extends in various directions, and the fact of being at home in this great community ... of the Catholic Church becomes ever more vibrant and profound, it molds all of existence without cancelling what went before".


  The second question was: "Over recent years increasing numbers of people have been leaving the Church in Germany, also as a result of acts of child abuse committed by members of the clergy. What are your feelings about this?

What would you say to those who wish to leave the Church?"


  "Let us first distinguish", said the Holy Father, "the specific motivations of those who are horrified by the crimes that have recently come to light. I can understand how, in the light of such information and especially if close relatives are involved, one would say: 'This is no longer my Church. For me the Church was a humanizing and moral force. If representatives of the Church do such wrong I can no longer live with this Church". This is a specific situation. Generally speaking though, against the background of a wide spread secularization of our society, there are many reasons and the act of leaving is often only the last step people make in a long process of distancing themselves from the Church. In this context, I feel it is important to ask: 'Why am I in the Church?' ... In my view it is vital to remember that being in the Church is not like being in some association. It means being in the net of the Lord where He catches fish, both good and bad, to draw them from the waters of death to the land of life. It may be that, in this net, I find myself alongside the bad fish and that I see only them, but it remains true that I am not there for them, I am there because it is the net of the Lord. This is quite different from human associations and touches the very foundation of our being. Speaking to these people, I believe that we must delve to the bottom of the question of what the Church is. ... Why am I in the Church even if there are scandals and terrible human failings? In this way we will renew our awareness of the specific nature of being Church, ... which is the People of God, and thus we would learn ... to combat the scandals from within, from within the great net of the Lord".


Fundamental unity with Evangelical Churches


  Asked about groups which have opposed this and others of his apostolic trips, Benedict XVI replied: "In the first place I would say it is normal that, in a free society and in a period of secularization, a papal visit should meet with opposition and that such opposition should be expressed. It is part of our freedom, and we must be aware that secularization and specific hostility to Catholicism is strong in our societies. When this opposition is expressed civilly then we have nothing to say against it.


  "However it is also true that many people have high expectations and a lot of love for the Pope. ... There is great consensus around the Catholic faith, and a growing conviction that we need a moral force, that we need the presence of God in our time. And so I know that alongside the opposition, which naturally exists, a lot of people are awaiting this feast of the faith with joy. ... For this reason I am glad to go back to my native Germany, I am happy to bring the message of Christ to my own land".


  Finally Benedict XVI was asked about his expectations for his meeting with members of the Evangelical Church. "When I accepted the invitation to make this trip", he replied, "it was clear that ecumenism with our Evangelical friends had to be a central theme. As I have said before, we live in secularized times in which all Christians have the mission of making God's message present to the fellows. ... Thus the fact that Catholics and Evangelicals meet is fundamental for our time. And although we are not perfectly united at the institutional level, although problems (even large problems) persist, we are united in the fundamentals: faith in Christ and the Triune God, and the fact that man was made in the image of God. At this moment of history it is vital that we intensify this union.


  "For this reason", the Pope added, "I am very grateful to our Protestant brothers and sisters who have made it possible to hold this highly significant meeting in the convent where Luther began his theological journey, to pray ...and talk together about our responsibility as Christians today. I am delighted to be able to express our fundamental unity as brothers and sisters who work together for the good of humankind, announcing the joyful message of Christ, of God Who has a human face and Who speaks to us".


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