Pope heads to German monastery, meets Lutherans

Pope Benedict XVI has stressed his goal of unity in the Christian Church during his six-year papacy.

Erfurt: Pope Benedict XVI headed on Friday to the eastern city of Erfurt, where he is to hold a joint service with Germany`s Roman Catholic and Protestant churches in a chapel where Martin Luther prayed before launching his schismatic protest against Rome.

The pontiff started the day in Berlin with a private Mass and closed-door meetings with leaders from Germany`s Muslim community. He met with Jewish leaders on Thursday, before celebrating a Mass in Berlin that attracted some 70,000 faithful from across the nation.

In a speech to Germany`s Parliament on Thursday from Berlin`s historic Reichstag Parliament building, Benedict warned politicians not to sacrifice ethics for power, evoking the Nazi excesses of his homeland as a lesson in history.

The pope will concentrate on Friday on issues of Germany`s divided past, both spiritual and political.

In Erfurt`s Augustine monastery, where Luther lived as a monk before his protest against the Roman Catholic Church in 1517, the pope will meet members of the Lutheran church. Luther, also a professor of theology, was excommunicated by the pope for disputing church tenets and sparked the Protestant Reformation that led to the creation of the Lutheran church. The split among German Christians remains a point of dispute to this day.

From there, Benedict travels to a small chapel nestled deep in the former East Germany, where he will honour those Catholics who helped resist communist rule.

Police in Erfurt`s historic centre blocked off streets and set up barricades around the Cathedral square where the pope will celebrate Mass on Saturday.

About 9,000 people protested in downtown Berlin on Thursday and more protests were planned in Erfurt.
The Vatican`s views on contraception, the role of women, homosexuality and its handling of the sexual abuse scandal that rocked Germany last year are seen by many in Germany as outdated.

Bureau Report

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