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Saturday, September 24, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 24 SEP 2011 (VIS) - At 9 a.m. today, Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in the Domplatz (Cathedral Square) of Erfurt. More than 50,000 people participated in the liturgy which used texts specific to the diocese of Erfurt for the veneration of the local patron, St. Elizabeth of Thuringia.

  "If we think back thirty years to the Elizabeth Year 1981, when this city formed part of the German Democratic Republic", said the Pope at the beginning of his homily, "who would have thought that a few years later, the wall and the barbed wire at the border would have come down? And if we think even further back, some seventy years, to the year 1941, in the days of National Socialism, who could have predicted that the so-called 'thousand-year Reich' would turn to dust and ashes just four years later?"

  "Here in Thuringia and in the former German Democratic Republic, you have had to endure first a brown and then a red dictatorship, which acted on the Christian faith like acid rain. Many late consequences of that period are still having to be worked through, above all in the intellectual and religious fields. Most people in this country since that time have spent their lives far removed from faith in Christ and from the communion of the Church. Yet the last two decades have also brought good experiences: a broader horizon, an exchange that reaches beyond borders, a faithful confidence that God does not abandon us and that He leads us along new paths".

  This "new freedom has helped bring about greater dignity and a great many new possibilities for people's lives. On the part of the Church, we can point gratefully to many things that have become easier, whether it be new opportunities for parish activities, renovation and enlargement of churches and community centres, or diocesan initiatives of a pastoral or cultural nature. But have these opportunities led to an increase in faith? Are not the deep roots of faith and Christian life to be sought in something very different from social freedom? It was actually amid the hardships of pressure from without that many committed Catholics remained faithful to Christ and to the Church. They accepted personal disadvantages in order to live their faith".

  Among those people, the Holy Father made special mention of the many priests and laypersons who provided pastoral care to refugees in the years following World War II, and of the parents who brought up their children in the Catholic faith "in the midst of the diaspora and in an anticlerical political environment".

  Referring then to the patrons of the diocese of Erfurt - St. Elizabeth of Thuringia, St. Boniface and St. Kilian - and to St. Severus to whom the "Severikirche" in the Domplatz is dedicated, the Pope said: "God's presence is seen especially clearly in His saints. Their witness to the faith can also give us the courage to begin afresh today", because they "show us that it is truly possible and good to live our relationship with God in a radical way, to put Him in first place, not as one concern among others. The saints help us to see that God first reached out to us, He revealed and continues to reveal Himself to us in Jesus Christ. Christ comes towards us, He speaks to every individual with an invitation to follow Him".

  "Faith always includes as an essential element the fact that it is shared with others. ... This 'with', without which there can be no personal faith, is the Church. And this Church does not stop at national borders, as we can see from the nationalities of the saints I mentioned earlier: Hungary, England, Ireland and Italy. ... If we open ourselves up to the whole of the faith in all of history and the testimony given to it in the whole Church, then the Catholic faith also has a future as a public force in Germany. ... Saints, even if there are only a few of them, change the world.

  "Thus", the Holy Father added, "the political changes that swept through your country in 1989 were motivated not just by the demand for prosperity and freedom of movement, but also decisively by the longing for truthfulness. This longing was kept awake partly through people completely dedicated to serving God and neighbour and ready to sacrifice their lives. They and the saints I mentioned before give us courage to make good use of this new situation. We have no wish to hide in a purely private faith, but we want to shape this hard-won freedom responsibly".

  Following Mass, Benedict XVI travelled to the airport of Erfurt. At 11.50 a.m. he departed for the city of Freiburg im Breisgau where he landed at Lahr airport shortly before 1 p.m.
PV-GERMANY/                            VIS 20110924 (810)

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