Pope urges spiritual renewal as he ends visit to homeland
Pope Benedict XVI issued a strong call for spiritual renewal among Germans, as he wrapped up a visit to his homeland in which he addressed parliament and met with victims of clerical abuse.
The Pope drew hundreds of thousands of German faithful to services held on stops during his trip, including a final Mass early yesterday that attracted about 100,000 people to an airfield beside Freiburg's airport.
In his parting words before leaving for Rome last night, Benedict wished Germans "strength and confidence" in their faith.
From Berlin to Erfurt and, finally Freiburg, Benedict stressed the importance of faith, whether as the basis for a thriving democracy or as a force that helped to resist communism. He stressed the need for Catholics to show unity with Rome, which he said had no intention of bowing to groups demanding changes in the church's teaching.
"The church in Germany will continue to be a blessing for the entire Catholic world if she remains faithfully united with the successors of St Peter and the Apostles," Benedict said.
Germany's church has seen large numbers of faithful leaving in recent years, including a record 181,000 who left following last year's clerical abuse scandal in Germany.
Security for the Pope's first state visit to his native Germany was tight, with large parts of Berlin, Erfurt and Freiburg sealed off for the four-day trip.