In her weekly video podcast, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Christians to reflect on what unites them in the face of rising secularism in an attempt to soothe controversy surrounding Pope Benedict’s XVI visit to Germany next week.
“I think it is important to constantly reinforce the unity of Christians at a time when we are confronted by a growing secularism,”Â Merkel said. “What theÂ Christian faithÂ has in common should always be remembered,” she said.
“When the pope visits Germany, he is also visiting the country of the Reformation,”Â Merkel, the daughter of a Lutheran pastor who grew up in the Communist EastÂ added.
Merkel said the pope’s visit was a reminder of Germany and Europe’s Christian roots, giving the strength and inspiration to fight against all religious persecution. The 500th anniversary of the German Reformation will be in 2017.
The pope’s first state visit to his native GermanyÂ from September 22-25 will take him to the mostly atheist former East Germany. It will include an address in Berlin’s vast Nazi-eraÂ Olympic Stadium as well asÂ a meeting in Erfurt, one-time home of Protestant reformer Martin Luther, to discuss ways Catholics and Protestants can work together.
ButÂ the visit has prompted widespread criticism in Germany, with some 100 left-wingÂ parliamentarians vowing to boycott a speech by the pope in the Bundestag on Friday. They say itÂ violatesÂ the strict church-state divide in Germany.
A wave of demonstrations is expectedÂ to follow the 84-year-old pontiff throughout the trip, in particular on the first day in Berlin, when at least 20,000 people are expected to protest during theÂ speech planned in front of parliament. [more]