'Those who believe are never alone'
Holy Father Benedict XVI visited Bavaria
Fr Pawel Rozpiatkowski
Introduction to Christianity
This was evident especially on 12 September, during the papal visit to Regensburg. First at the Mass, then during the meeting at the University of Regensburg and finally during the ecumenical celebration of vespers. During the Mass at Islinger Feld esplanade, with over 250,000 participants, Benedict XVI spoke about the foundations of faith. He began by reflecting on social context in which people make choices of faith. He used this to ask provoking questions, 'What do we actually believe? What does it mean to have faith? Is it still something possible in the modern world?' Then he answered these questions and the axis of his reflections was the apostolic creed. The Pope's sermon was a kind of miniature introduction to Christianity, directed to those who doubt and to those who seek as well as to those who need to deepen their faith. Benedict XVI warned against falsifying the face of God,' it is important to state clearly the God in whom we believe, and to proclaim confidently that this God has a human face'.
Call for reason
At the University of Regensburg, where he had been a professor for eight years, the Holy Father spoke about the relationship between faith and science. He said that they both needed each other. He paid attention to some trends that wanted to exclude theology from the pantheon of science. In his opinion this was dangerous since firstly it harmed reason and secondly, it excluded the dialogue of cultures. 'A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures... The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby', the Holy Father said. In the situation of the most urgent dialogue, which the globalised world demands, these words were very meaningful.
The fourth day of Benedict XVI's visit ended with the ecumenical celebration of vespers. The Pope met representatives of sixteen Christian Churches in Bavaria and representatives of the Jewish community in the Church of St Ulrich. In his reflection the Holy Father spoke, like in Islinger Feld, about fundamental issues. But this time there were foundations of ecumenism. He focused on three words: profession of faith, witness and love. These words must characterize efforts to bring about unity among Christians if we want to overcome unseemly divisions.
In Bavarian Czestochowa
At the end of the Mass celebrated in Regensburg, Benedict XVI spoke about the Mother of God. He continued the Marian motif of the pilgrimage, which he began on the first day in Bavaria during the prayer at the Column of the Madonna in Marienplatz in Muenich, the apogee of the motif was in Altötting on 11 September. Altötting is the biggest Marian shrine in Germany, popularly called Bavarian Czestochowa. At this place, Benedict XVI spoke about the role of Mary in the work of salvation on the basis of the evangelical description of the first miracle in Cana. Several hours after the Mass the Pope celebrated vespers and addressed the clergy. He mentioned the lack of priests and 'the harvest is plentiful'; he spoke about the need to gain strength from living relationships with the Lord.
On that day Benedict XVI also visited Marktl am Inn, his birthplace. In the local church he prayed at the baptismal font where he had been baptized.
Briefly at home
The last two days of the pilgrimage were more peaceful and of a more private character. On 13 September, Benedict XVI met his brother Fr Georg Ratzinger and his friends. He ate lunch with his brother, they prayed at their parents' and sister's graves in Ziegetsdorf near Regensburg. The Holy Father also visited his own house in Pentling. The blessing of the new organ in the Baroque Old Chapel was partly of private character. The Pope, who is fond of music, expressed his love for music in his greetings. He spoke about meaning of music, which is not only an additional element but it creates liturgy. He tenderly described the role of organ. 'Just as in an organ an expert hand must constantly bring disharmony back to consonance, so we in the Church, in the variety of our gifts and charisms, always need to find anew, through our communion in faith, harmony in the praise of God and in fraternal love.'
On the last, farewell day there was a meeting with the clergy in the cathedral in Freising. In his improvised speech Benedict XVI remarked that vocations were God's gifts. He warned against placing hope only in vocation management.
Then he arrived at the airport and there was a farewell ceremony. Benedict praised his fellow countrymen for their fervent devotion, which he saw in his land. He devoted much time to human work. He reminded the astonished people that 14 September marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the publication of the Encyclical 'Laborem exercens' by the great Pope John Paul II. 'That text was not lacking in prophetic value, and I would like to recommend it to the people of my native land. I am certain that its concrete application will prove very beneficial in Germany's present situation', he said. Benedict XVI came to Bavaria to strengthen faith and he left strengthened by his countrymen's faith. "Auf Wiedersehen", was his last words spoken publicly during this visit. They mean that Benedict XVI hopes for a next visit.