2011-09-22 Vatican RadioPope Benedict XVI, told accredited journalists on the Papal plane that he is joyful to be taking the message of Christ to his homeland. As is customary, at the start of an Apostolic journey, the Pope answers questions put to him by journalists who are travelling in his entourage. Introducing the press conference, Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, said that there are some 4.000 accredited journalists on the ground in Germany to report on the journey. On the plane – he revealed - there are 68 journalists, 20 or so of them, of German nationality. Pope Benedict then answered four questions: one in German and three in Italian. The first very “personal” question regarded how “German” does the Pope still feel himself to be. Benedict noted that his entire cultural formation was received in Germany. German is his language, and continues to be the language in which he reads most books. For this reason – he said – his German identity is still very strong. A sense of belonging to its history, in all of its greatness and its weaknesses, cannot and must not be erased. However, he said, for a Christian there is more: Baptism is a rebirth and the belonging to a new people which includes all peoples and all cultures without losing one’s natural origin. And having taken on the supreme responsibility of this new people – as Pope – it is clear, Benedict explained, that the roots grow into a tree that branches out in many directions. So the sense of belonging to this great community of the Catholic Church is ever deeper and more vibrant. Summing up, he said, the sense of origin remains but it is enshrouded in a greater belonging, in “civitas Dei” as Augustin would say, where we are all brothers and sisters. In the second question the Pope was asked about the number of German Catholics formally renouncing their membership in the Church, also because of the abuses committed by clergy on minors. He was asked about his own sentiment regarding this issue and what words would he have for those who want to leave the Church. Some, he said, have left because of the revelation of “terrible scandals” involving clerical sexual abuse, especially if the scandals have affected people close to them. For others, in this secularized society, it is often the last step in a long process of moving away from the Catholic community. The Pope said the church is “the Lord’s net” and like any fisherman’s net, there can be bad fish. Catholic leaders need to explain and help people understand the nature of the Church as the people of God and “learn to withstand even these scandals and work against these scandals from the inside.” In the third question he was asked about the planned protests in Germany during his visit, and with what sentiments he is travelling to his homeland. Pope Benedict said that protests and criticism are normal in a free and secularized society. He voiced his respect for anyone who expresses his opinion in a civilized way. But, he said, there are also great expectations and great love for the Pope in Germany and he added that in many sectors of the German population, there is a growing sense of a need for a moral voice in society. “For this reason” Pope Benedict concluded “I travel with joy to my Germany and I am happy to bring the message of Christ to my homeland”. In the fourth question the Pope was asked about his visit to Erfurt and to the Augustinian Convent of Martin Luther where an ecumenical celebration will take place. When I accepted the invitation to this journey – the Pope pointed out - it was evident that ecumenism with our Lutheran friends had to be a central point. We live in a secularized time, and all Christians have a mission to bring witness to the message of Christ. Thus, even although we are not institutionally united, we are united in our faith in Christ, in the Holy Trinity and in man made in the image of God. And it is essential in this historic moment to show the world this unity. Therefore - he said – I am very grateful to our protestant friends, sisters and brothers, who have made this encounter possible. I am happy to be able to show this fundamental unity, that we are working together for the good of humanity, announcing Christ’s message of joy.