Pope on visit to German homeland, expects protest
BERLIN (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI warned Germans of the danger of ignoring religion as he began the first state visit to his homeland Thursday, seeking to stem the tide of Catholics leaving the church while acknowledging the damage caused by the clerical sex abuse scandal.
He is expected to be greeted by large protests and a boycott by some lawmakers when he addresses parliament later in the day but also by larger crowds of Catholic faithful.
“We are witnessing a growing indifference to religion in society,” he said at a formal welcoming ceremony at the German president’s Bellevue palace, touching on a major theme of his papacy.
He called religion a foundation for a successful society and said its values were essential for freedom.
Benedict said the presidential palace, which was destroyed in World War II, was a reminder of German history.
“A clear look at the past, even at its dark pages, enables us to learn from it and to receive an impetus for the present,” the pope said.
The Bavarian-born pontiff was met on a red carpet at Berlin’s Tegel airport by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Christian Wulff at the start of his four-day visit.