VATICAN CITY, 22 SEP 2011 (VIS) - At 8.15 a.m. today the Holy Father departed from Ciampino airport in Rome. Following a two-hour flight, his place landed at Berlin-Tegel airport, thus beginning the twenty-first international apostolic trip of his pontificate and his first State visit to Germany.
On arriving in Berlin the Holy Father was greeted by a twenty-one gun salute, as per the protocol for State visits, while Christian Wulff and Angela Merkel, respectively president and chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, waited on the runway to greet him. Also present were Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki of Berlin, and Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg im Breisgau, president of the German Bishops' Conference.
From the airport the Pope travelled by car to Bellevue Castle, official residence of the president, where the welcome ceremony took place in the palace gardens.
"Even though this journey is an official visit which will reinforce the good relations existing between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Holy See, I have not come here primarily to pursue particular political or economic goals, as other statesmen rightly do, but rather to meet people and to speak about God", said the Pope in his address. "We are witnessing a growing indifference to religion in society, which considers the issue of truth as something of an obstacle in its decision-making, and instead gives priority to utilitarian considerations.
"All the same", he added, "a binding basis for our coexistence is needed; otherwise people live in a purely individualistic way. Religion is one of these foundations for a successful social life. 'Just as religion has need of freedom, so also freedom has need of religion'. These words of the great bishop and social reformer Wilhelm von Ketteler, the second centenary of whose birth is being celebrated this year, remain timely.
"Freedom requires a primordial link to a higher instance. The fact that there are values which are not absolutely open to manipulation is the true guarantee of our freedom", which "develops only in responsibility to a greater good. Such a good exists only for all of us together. ... In human coexistence, freedom is impossible without solidarity. ... This holds true not only in private matters but also for society as a whole. In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, society must give sufficient space for smaller structures to develop and, at the same time, must support them so that one day they will stand on their own".
The Holy Father went on: "Bellevue Castle, ... with its dramatic history (like many buildings of this city) is a testimony to the history of Germany. A clear look at the past, even at its dark pages, enables us to learn from it and to receive an impetus for the present. The Federal Republic of Germany has become what it is today thanks to the power of freedom shaped by responsibility before God and before one another. It needs this dynamism, which engages every human sector in order to continue developing now. It needs this in a world which requires a profound cultural renewal and the rediscovery of fundamental values upon which to build a better future".
Having completed his address the Pope held a private meeting with President Wulff and his family, after which he travelled to the headquarters of the German Episcopal Conference (DBK) where he was received by its president Archbishop Robert Zollitsch. He then held a private meeting which Chancellor Merkel in the DBK library, where they were later joined by her husband and members of her entourage. At the end of the meeting the Holy Father went by foot to the refectory of the nearby Catholic Academy where he had lunch.
PV-GERMANY/ VIS 20110922 (630)