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Interview With Benedict XVI (Part 1)

8/18/2006 - 5:30 AM PST

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"The Quest for 'Something Bigger' Wells Up Again" in the West

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 18, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of an interview Benedict XVI gave to a panel of four German journalists Aug. 5 in the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.

The 40-minute interview was broadcast last Sunday on German public television channels ARD and ZDF, on Germany's state-funded worldwide TV service Deutsche Welle, and on Vatican Radio.

The Pope will travel to his native Bavaria on Sept. 9-14.

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Q: Holy Father, your next trip will be to Bavaria. During preparations for the trip your collaborators said you are nostalgic for your homeland. What are the issues you'll be speaking about during the visit and is the concept of "homeland" one of the values you intend touching on, in particular?

Benedict XVI: Of course. The purpose of the visit is precisely because I want to see again the places where I grew up, the people who touched and shaped my life. I want to thank these people.

Naturally I also want to express a message that goes beyond my country, just as my ministry calls me to do. I simply let the liturgical recurrences suggest the themes to me. The basic theme is that we have to rediscover God, not just any God, but the God that has a human face, because when we see Jesus Christ we see God.

Starting from this point we must find the way to meet each other in the family, among generations, and then among cultures and peoples as well. We must find the way to reconciliation and to peaceful coexistence in this world, the ways that lead to the future.

We won't find these ways leading to the future if we don't receive light from above. So I didn't choose very specific themes, but rather, it is the liturgy that leads me to express the basic message of faith which naturally finds its place in everyday reality where we want to search, above all, for cooperation among peoples and possible ways that can lead us to reconciliation and peace.

Q: As Pope you are responsible for the Church throughout the world. But, clearly, your visit focuses attention on the situation of Catholics in Germany as well. All observers say there's a positive atmosphere, partly thanks to your election as Pope. But, obviously, the old problems are still around. Just to quote a few examples: fewer churchgoers, fewer baptisms, and especially less Church influence on the life of society. How do you see the present situation of the Catholic Church in Germany?

Benedict XVI: I'd say, first of all, that Germany is part of the West, obviously with its own characteristics, and that in the Western world today we are experiencing a wave of new and drastic enlightenment or secularization, whatever you like to call it.

It's become more difficult to believe because the world in which we find ourselves is completely made up of ourselves, and God, so to speak, doesn't appear directly anymore. We don't drink from the source anymore, but from the vessel which is offered to us already full, and so on.

Humanity has rebuilt the world by itself and finding God inside this world has become more difficult. This is not specific to Germany: It's something that's valid throughout the world, especially in the West.

Then again, today the West is being strongly influenced by other cultures in which the original religious element is very powerful. These cultures are horrified when they experience the West's coldness toward God. This "presence of the sacred" in other cultures, even if often veiled, touches the Western world again, it touches us at the crossroads of so many cultures. The quest for "something bigger" wells up again from the depths of Western people and in Germany.

We see how in young people there's the search for something "more," we see how the religious phenomenon is returning, as they say. Even if it's a search that's rather indefinite.

But with all this the Church is present once more, and faith is offered as the answer. I think that this visit, like the visit to Cologne, is an opportunity because we can see that believing is beautiful, that the joy of a huge universal community possesses a transcendental strength, that behind this belief lies something important and that together with the new searching movements there are also new outlets for the faith that lead us from one to the other and that are also positive for society as a whole.

Q: Holy Father, you were in Cologne with the young people exactly a year ago. You experienced how amazingly willing youth are to welcome others, and you personally were very warmly welcomed. Will you be bringing a special message for young people on this next trip?

Benedict XVI: First of all, I'd say that I am very happy there are young people who want to be together, who want to be together in faith and who ...

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