by Anura Guruge
This trip, from September 22 to 25, 2011, will be Benedict XVI’s third (3rd) trip home — the last one having been just over 5 years ago, from Sept. 9 to 14, 2006. His prior trip to Germany, his first trip home since becoming pope, was between August 18 to 25, 2005 — within 5 months (i.e., 129 days) of becoming pope. That happened to also be his first trip outside of Italy as pope. So, prior to this new trip, he, as pope, has spent a total of 10 days back home.
Logistically and politically it was not as easy for John Paul II (#265) to go back to communist Poland for his first trip home as pope. It was 229 days before he was able to visit Poland — but he stayed for 9 days on that very first visit. (That trip was his second trip outside of Italy, John Paul II having spent a week, at the end of January 1979, visiting Dominican Republic, Mexico and The Bahamas. It was just over 4 years before the pope revisited Poland. He stayed for 8 days on that trip. So, Benedict hasn’t spent as much time back home as his predecessor, but the circumstances were different, with John Paul’s visits having much more national, political and emotional significance.
This will be the pope’s first State Visit to his homeland and his first time in Berlin as pope. Talking on a German TV program on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, the pope said this about the Berlin leg of his forth coming visit: “I think with particular joy of Berlin where I will attend many meetings and, naturally, of my address to the Bundestag and the great Mass we will celebrate at the Olympic stadium.”
The Itinerary of the Visit
[Local time in all cases. Consult maps provided at the end of this post, if you are unfamiliar with the geography of Europe.]
Thursday, September 22, 2011
» Depart Rome’s auxiliary Ciampino airport at 8.15 am.
» Arrive at Berlin-Tegel airport, Berlin’s main international airport, at 10.30 am.
» Welcome ceremony and a courtesy meeting with the Catholic president of Germany, Christian Wulff, at the President’s official residence, Belevue Castle.
» The pope will then proceed to the Headquarters of the German Episcopal Conference in Berlin [most likely with lunch and a short rest].
» The pope will then meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (the divorced, remarried daughter of a Lutheran minister from East Germany).
» Later in the afternoon, the pope will visit and address the German Federal parliament.
» Following the address to parliament, the pope will meet with representatives of the Berlin Jewish community.
» At 6.30 pm he will celebrate Mass in Berlin’s Olympic stadium.
[Though not stated by the Vatican, the pope most likely will have dinner and spend the night at the Apostolic nunciature in Berlin. The current nuncio in Berlin, who has held that post since 2007, is Jean-Claude Périsset.]
Friday, September 23, 2011
» Meeting with representatives of the Muslim community, at the apostolic nunciature in Berlin, at 9 am.
» Leave for Erfurt (in central Germany) by plane. Erfurt is where Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) the Father of the Protestant Reformation went to university and became a monk. The pope, in the same TV interview quoted above, had this to say about Erfurt: “One of the most important moments of the visit will be in Erfurt. In that Augustinian monastery, that Augustinian church where Luther began his journey, I will have the chance to meet the representatives of the Evangelical Church in Germany. Together we will pray, hear the Word of God, reflect and discuss. We are not expecting anything sensational; indeed, the greatness of the event lies precisely in the fact that, in that place, we can reflect together, listen to the Word of God and pray. This intimate proximity will be an expression of authentic ecumenism.”
» In Erfurt he will visit St. Mary’s Cathedral. He will address representatives of the German Evangelical Church Council and participate in an ecumenical celebration.
» In the afternoon the pope will via helicopter travel to Etzel Bach Hermitage in Eichsfeld. At 5.45 pm, the pope will preside at Marian Vespers at the Wallfahrtskapelle, the Marian chapel there. In his TV interview the pope said: “The meeting at Eichsfeld is particularly significant for me: that small strip of land which, despite all the vicissitudes of history, has remained Catholic.”
» He will then take the chopper back to Erfurt.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
» In the morning the pope will celebrate Mass at Erfurt’s Domplatz [i.e., Cathedral Square].
» Following the mass, the pope will fly by plane to Freiburg im Breisgau in southwestern Germany.
» The pope will visit the local cathedral.
» In the afternoon the pope will visit the local seminary where he will meet first with Helmut Kohl, the Catholic former chancellor of Germany.
» The pope will then meet with representatives from the Orthodox Churches.
» After that he will meet with the seminarians.
» Finally he will meet with the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZDK).
» At 7pm the pope will preside at a youth prayer vigil with at the Fairground of Freiburg im Breisgau.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
» 10 am, the pope will celebrate Mass and pray the Angelus at the airport of Freiburg im Breisgau.
» Following the Angelus the pope will have lunch with members of the German Episcopal Conference.
» 4.20 pm, the pope will meet with magistrates of the Federal Constitutional Court
» He will then meet with a group of local Catholics luminaries.
» The pope will fly back to Rome from Freiburg’s Lahr airport.
» The pope is scheduled to arrive at Rome’s Ciampino airport at 8.45 pm.
Some more from the pope’s TV interview related to this trip: “After that we will move on to southwest Germany and the great city of Freiburg im Breisgau where many meetings will take place, particularly the vigil with young people and the great Mass which concludes my trip. This is not religious tourism; still less is it a ‘show’. Its significance is well expressed in the motto accompanying these days: ‘Where God is, there lies the future’. What this means is that we must restore God to our horizon, the God Who is so often absent but of Whom we have such great need. …”