Pope flies into protests on first state visit home
Published 22/09/2011 | 05:00
THE Pope will receive a hostile reception from politicians, paedophile sex victims and homosexual campaigners when he arrives in Germany today on his first state visit to his homeland.
Even ordinary Roman Catholics are expected to give him a lukewarm welcome at best when he lands in Berlin at the start of the four-day trip.
The shadow of Nazism will hang over an address that the Pope, a former member of the Hitler Youth, will give in Berlin's Olympic stadium where Adolf Hitler presided over the 1936 Games. Germans were filled with pride in 2005 when the then Joseph Ratzinger was elected the first German pope in nearly 1,000 years, but that enthusiasm has long since faded for many.
He was condemned in 2009 for lifting the excommunication of Richard Williamson, a maverick British bishop who questioned the Holocaust, as well as his perceived inaction over priests who sexually abused children. The visit of the Bavarian-born pontiff is likely to be marred by protests over his conservative doctrinal views on clerical celibacy and his opposition to women priests. Many Catholics in Germany, as well as in Austria and the German-speaking parts of Switzerland, are frustrated with the Vatican's resistance to change. Last year a record 181,000 Catholics left the church in protest against the sex abuse scandals and the Holy See's conservatism -- more than the number of children baptised.
The gulf between the Vatican's views and the reality of life for many liberal Germans will be thrown into sharp relief when the Pope meets the country's leaders.
Christian Wulff, the president, is a Catholic who has divorced and remarried; while Klaus Wowereit, the mayor of Berlin, is Catholic and openly homosexual, making them both sinners in the eyes of Rome.
Nearly 150 German, Austrian and Swiss theologians have called for radical changes to the Church's attitude towards divorce and homosexuality. In a recent survey, only 37pc of German Catholics and 14pc of Protestants thought that what the Pope would say during his trip would be important.
Nearly three quarters of Catholics wanted the church to liberalise.
Paint bombs were thrown yesterday at the Vatican embassy in the Neukoelln district of the capital -- where the Pope will stay -- and at a nearby Catholic church. About 100 MPs plan to boycott the Pope's address to the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament. (© Daily Telegraph, London)