German President Thanks Pope for Aiding Reunification

Johannes Rau Visits Vatican

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 7, 2004 ( German President Johannes Rau of Germany visited John Paul II and thanked him for his contribution to the country’s reunification.

«Without your effort, Holiness, Germany would have had before it a long road to regain its unity,» Rau said during a papal audience on Saturday.

The president, whose term of office ends this June, gave the Pope a miniature reproduction of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, for years the symbol of a divided capital.

The meeting between the Pope and Rau, who arrived in the Vatican with his wife Christina and an entourage of eight, lasted about 20 minutes.

In a brief address, John Paul II spoke of Germany’s federal structure as «a model for a united Europe of nations.»

The Holy Father also noted the «generosity» of the German society toward developing countries. In particular, he mentioned the aid that state and ecclesial organizations give the populations of less favored countries, and said he hoped that the cooperation between the German state and the Holy See will continue to be fruitful.

The Pope cited a need for greater commitment in politics by German Christians, saying that he hoped «the Christian heritage will be able to make more fruitful the society of Germany and of the rest of the continent.»

Following his meeting with the Pope, the German president was received by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano. The meeting was also attended by Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican secretary for relations with states, and by the German ambassador to the Holy See, Gerhard Friedrich Karl Westdickenberg.

«In the course of the conversations there was an exchange on relations between the Church and the state in Germany and on the importance of religious values in the life of nations,» said a statement, published later by the deputy director of the Vatican press office, Father Ciro Benedettini.

Also mentioned during the meeting was «the expectation of Catholics of Europe — around 80% of the total population — who want to see recognized the historical presence of Christianity in the life of the continent,» the Vatican statement said.

During the meeting, Cardinal Sodano gave Rau the great chain of the Order of Pius IX, an honor bestowed by the Holy See, in gratitude for his «contribution to good relations between the Church and the state of Germany.»

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