Benedict XVI Planning a Busy Trip Home

17 Addresses and 20 Meetings to Fill 4 Days

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 19, 2011 ( Benedict XVI’s trip home this week — his third pastoral visit to Germany as Pope and his first state visit — will be uniquely intense. The 84-year-old Pontiff will give 17 addresses and have nearly two dozen meetings in four days.

According to the director of the Vatican press office, this richness can partly be attributed to the fact that the Holy Father will be at home — “in his language and without a need for translators” and in “an atmosphere of esteem and appreciation.”

This was one of the observations made by Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi last Friday as he met with journalists to present the Pontiff’s Thursday through Sunday journey.

Father Lombardi suggested concentrating on the theme, “Where God is, there is a future,” so as not to overemphasize details such as the logo, which suggests people walking toward the cross.

The Jesuit pointed out that Benedict XVI was invited by the president of the German Federal Parliament, the Bundestag, and, therefore, would give his first address to Parliament.

Regarding the flight that will take the Holy Father from Berlin to Erfurt, a Luftwaffe A-340 plane, the spokesman specified that “it is the one used by the authorities on official visits,” and therefore there was no wish to change anything.

Old issues

The press conference participants questioned Father Lombardi regarding a proposal made last autumn by 256 German, Austrian and Swiss theologians, calling for the abolition of priestly celibacy and the admission of women to the priesthood. The German Episcopal Conference opposed the statement, confirming at the same time its willingness to dialogue on the life and structures of the Church.

Father Lombardi recalled that on this issue there is ongoing “dialogue, reflection and debate in the Church of Germany; hence there is no need to expect that the Pope will enter into details.”

The Vatican spokesman reminded the press of Benedict XVI’s intention for the trip, that is, “to go back to the essential. Because the Church depends on belief in God and Jesus Christ, dead and risen, and not on celibacy. And about where God is in relation to society, at a substantial and profound level.”

A Mass in German will be celebrated Sunday, while on the other days, the Holy Father will use the canon in Latin, as in all Masses of papal trips.

The spokesman alerted the journalists that the Holy Father intends to speak to seminarians extemporaneously, without a text.

The spokesman highlighted various details of the three main stages of the trip, including Mass at Olympiastadion, where historical events intertwine, ranging from Hitler’s regime, to John Paul II beatifying there two Germans killed by Nazis, Father Bernhard Lichtenberg and Father Karl Leisner. Father Leisner was ordained a priest in the Dachau concentration camp by another prisoner, bishop of Clermont-Ferrand.

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