The State of Catholic Germany
Guess what? It's the most pointed, possibly the best-constructed, address of the trip.
In an address to the German bishops before departing Cologne, B16 said:
We know that on the face of this Church there are unfortunately also wrinkles, shadows that obscure her splendour. These too we should keep before us, in a spirit of unfailing love, at this moment of celebration and thanksgiving. Secularism and dechristianization continue to advance. The influence of Catholic ethics and morals is in constant decline. Many people abandon the Church or, if they remain, they accept only a part of Catholic teaching. The religious situation in the East is particularly worrying, since the majority of the population is unbaptized and has no contact with the Church. In each of these problems we recognize a fresh challenge. You yourselves are more aware of this than anyone, as is evident from your Pastoral Letter of 21 September 2004 in commemoration of the 1,250th anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Boniface. In that Letter, quoting the Jesuit Father Alfred Delp, you stated that "we have become a mission territory". As a native of this country that I hold so dear, I feel particularly affected by its problems....Again, the most powerful stuff of the trip. And, as is usually the case with this Pope's speeches, only a close read of the fulltext would do it justice.
With the light and strength that come from... the Gospel which the Holy Spirit ceaselessly makes alive and active, we can proclaim Christ fearlessly and invite everyone not to be afraid to open their hearts to him, for we are convinced that in him is found the fullness of life and happiness.
This means being a Church open to the future, and therefore one full of promise for coming generations. Young people, in fact, are not looking for a Church which panders to youth but one which is truly young in spirit.... Once again young people are providing us, their Pastors, with a salutary stimulus, for they are asking us to be consistent, united and courageous. We for our part must train them in patience, in discernment, in healthy realism. Yet there can be no false compromise, no watering down of the Gospel....
For this purpose it is essential that those who are engaged with and for young people should themselves be convinced witnesses to Christ and faithful to the teaching of the Church. The same applies in the field of Catholic education and catechesis: I am confident that you will take care to ensure that the persons chosen to be teachers of religion and catechists are well-prepared and faithful to the Church’s Magisterium. A useful aid in this commitment to the Christian formation of the younger generation will surely be the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which collects and synthesizes all the essential elements of Catholic faith and morality in clear and accessible language.
PHOTO: REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach