Tomorrow the Holy Father begins his four-day trip to his native country of Germany, during which he will “be greeted…by a Lutheran chancellor, a gay mayor and a divorced, remarried Roman Catholic president,” as the lead of this AP report notes.
A quick gander at the official itinerary for the trip reveals an impressive 18 scheduled addresses and homilies – this trip will certainly provide much material for analysis and commentary, even if it doesn’t result in an international news-event of the same proportions as Benedict’s last visit to his homeland, which included a little speech he gave at the University of Regensburg. You may have heard about it…
In anticipation of the start of the trip, Sandro Magister gives a brief sketch of the Germany that will greet Benedict on his arrival there:
…in all of Germany less than half of the population, 47 percent, claims to believe in God.
From 1950 until today, the number of Protestants has collapsed from 43 to 25 million. While there were 25 million Catholics in 1950 and the same number today, many of these also falling by the wayside.
While in 1950 one out of two Catholics went to Mass every Sunday, today in the western part of the country only 8 percent go. In the former East Germany, where Catholics are a small minority, the figure is 17 percent.
The average age of practicing believers is 60, everywhere. And only 15 percent of Germans under the age of 30, or the potential parents of the future generation, consider religious education important for children.
As for the contents of the faith, only 58.7 percent of Catholics and 47.7 percent of Protestants believe that God created heaven and earth. And even fewer believe in the virginal conception of Mary or in the resurrection of the dead. Only 38 percent of Germans consider Christmas a religious holiday.
Magister asks, “In this advancing desert of faith, how can the ‘new evangelization,’ another grand objective of this pontificate, get underway?” I expect we’ll hear the Holy Father’s thoughts on the subject discussed at great length over the next few days.
Be sure to check this space over the coming days for coverage of Pope Benedict’s Germany trip.