Pope Benedict XVI has arrived in Germany at the beginning of a four-day state visit. At the official welcoming ceremony he told crowds that he had come back to his homeland “to meet people and to speak about God.”
“I was born in Germany. Such roots cannot be severed, nor should they be,” the Pope told reporters on his flight from Rome to Berlin’s Tegel Airport, where he was greeted by German President Christian Wulff and Chancellor Angela Merkel.
He said aboard the plane that he was relaxed about those who are protesting against his visit because “that is normal in a free society.”
The Pope also fielded questions from the media on the issue of clerical abuse, suggesting that he understood why some victims may be tempted to say “this is not my church anymore.” But he explained that Church is an institution which catches both “good and bad fish.”
After being greeted at the airport, Pope Benedict was escorted to the German president’s residence at Berlin’s Bellevue Palace, where he was officially welcomed by President Wulff.
The Pope noted that in Germany, and elsewhere, there is a significant indifference to religion, with some people considering “the issue of truth as something of an obstacle” to society’s decision-making, and instead giving “priority to utilitarian considerations.”
Yet, he noted, “a binding basis for our coexistence is needed; otherwise people live in a purely individualistic way.” Religion, said the Pope, provides that and is “one of the foundations for a successful social life.”
“Freedom requires a primordial link to a higher instance. The fact that there are values which are not absolutely open to manipulation is the true guarantee of our freedom,” he said.
He suggested that such freedom “develops only in responsibility to a greater good” and “cannot be lived in the absence of relationships.” Pope Benedict explained that these necessities for freedom lead to the two key principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.
Solidarity, he explained, is our responsibility towards others, since “what I do at the expense of others is not freedom but a culpable way of acting which is harmful to others and also to myself.”
The Pope then turned to the principle of subsidiarity, which he defined as the idea that communal concerns are best addressed by at the lowest possible institutional level. This requires society to “give sufficient space for smaller structures to develop and, at the same time, must support them so that one day they will stand on their own.”
Both these principles, he said, have helped modern Germany to “become what it is today thanks to the power of freedom shaped by responsibility before God and before one another.”
He concluded by saying that he hoped his visit can “make a small contribution” towards a “profound cultural renewal” and a “rediscovery of fundamental values” which can lead to a better future for all.
Pope Benedict then had private meetings with both President Wulff and Chancellor Merkel before taking a break in his day for lunch at the city’s Catholic Academy.
Later today the Pope will speak before the German parliament, before making his way to the Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, where he will celebrate Mass before an anticipated audience of 70,000.