* * *
Ladies and Gentlemen,
dear fellow countrymen!
In a few days I will depart for my trip to Germany, and I am very happy. I think with joy especially of Berlin, where there will be many meetings and, naturally, of the speech that I will give at the Bundestag and of the great Mass that we will celebrate at the Olympic stadium.
One of the important points of the trip will be the visit to Erfurt: In that Augustinian monastery, in that Augustinian church, where Luther began his journey, I will meet with representatives of the Evangelical Church of Germany. There we will pray together, listen to the Word of God together, we will think and speak together. We do not expect any sensational event: In fact the true greatness of the event will consist in this, that in this place we will be able to think, listen to the Word of God and pray, and thus we will be very close, and a true ecumenism will manifest itself.
The meeting at Eichsfeld -- this little strip of land that, despite passing through all the vicissitudes of history, remained Catholic -- will be something special for me; then southwestern Germany, Freiburg, the great city, with many meetings that will take place there, above all the vigil with the young people and the great Mass that will conclude the trip.
None of this is religious tourism and much less a "show." The motto of these days tells us what it is: "Where God is, there is a future." It must focus on the fact that God returns to our world, this God who often seems totally absent, of whom we have dire need.
Perhaps you will ask me: "But does God exist? And if he exists, does he care about us? Can we reach him?" It is true of course that we cannot put God on the table, we cannot touch him like a utensil or take him in hand like any object. We must again develop the capacity to perceive God, a capacity that exists in us. We can intuit something of God's grandeur in the grandeur of the cosmos. We can use the world through technology because it is made in a rational manner. In the great rationality of the world we can intuit the creator spirit from which it comes, and in the beauty of creation we can intuit something of the beauty, of the grandeur and also the goodness of God. In the Word of sacred Scriptures we can hear the words of eternal life that do not come merely from men, but that come from him, and in them we hear his voice. And, finally, we glimpse God too in encounters with persons who are touched by him. I am not thinking only of the great ones: from Paul to Francis of Assisi to Mother Teresa; but I am thinking of the many simple people of whom no one speaks. And yet, when we meet them, there emanates something of goodness, sincerity, joy, and we know that God is there and that he touches us too. So, in these days we want to try to return to seeing God, to return to being persons through whom the light of hope might enter the world, a light that comes from God and helps us to live.