Pope to meet Jews, Muslims on German visit

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 20, 2011 7:33 AM
Pope to meet Jews, Muslims on German visit

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict will meet Jews and Muslims on his visit to his German homeland in September, the Vatican said on Wednesday.

The visit, which will take him to Berlin, Erfurt, Etzelsbach, Lahr and Freiburg im Breisgau, will be Benedict's third trip home since becoming pope in 2005.

A Vatican program for the September 22-25 trip showed the pope will meet members of the Jewish community on the first day and Muslims on the second day.

While meetings with the Jewish community are common on papal trips, when a pope meets the community in Germany the event takes on greater significance because of the Nazis' attempt to exterminate the Jews in the Holocaust.

A speech by the pope in Regensburg in 2006 made comments that Muslims found offensive. He was accused of equating Islam with violence.

He will also meet Germany's political leaders and members of the Lutheran community.

Benedict was a member of the Hitler Youth when membership was compulsory and was later drafted into the German anti-aircraft corps.

A growing number of German Catholics are quitting the Church because of a sexual abuse scandal. Some 180,000 German Catholics left in 2010, a 40 percent jump from the previous year.

Last month, German church authorities announced that one of the main events of the trip, a mass in Berlin, had been moved from the Charlottenburg Palace to the capital's Olympic Stadium. (Writing by Philip Pullella; editing by Robert Woodward)