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Pope concludes visit to Germany

BERLIN – Pope Benedict concluded a visit to his native Germany on Sunday with a meeting with bishops and federal judges, CNN said. The four-day trip was Benedict’s first state visit as pope.

On Saturday, the third day of his visit, the pope made two stops straddling the lines of history that have divided the country violently – in past decades into Communist east and democratic west, and in past centuries into mostly Protestant north and stalwart Catholic south. Benedict is known for his studious detail to the history of the Catholic Church and effort to mend divisions in the present-day church.

The pontiff’s reception at two venues Saturday contrasted, as did the messages he delivered. Benedict visited a predominantly Protestant region in former Communist eastern Germany and also made a stop in the traditionally Catholic southwest, which has enjoyed democratic freedoms since shortly after World War II. Exuberant Catholic faithful filled a spacious open-air convention center campus in Freiburg im Breisgau in southern Germany Saturday evening to greet the pope at an event for Catholic youth. Mostly young onlookers waved, chanted, sang and occasionally shed tears as Benedict approached the colorfully decorated stage.

Earlier in the day, more demure crowds packed into the quaint, historic center of the city of Erfurt to listen quietly as the pontiff delivered a solemn sermon on freedom from Nazi and Communist dictatorships. “Yes, we really have a reason to thank God wholeheartedly,” Benedict said with reference to Germany’s attainment of freedom and democracy.

The pope met Friday at a seminary in Erfurt with a group of people who had been sexually abused by clergy and church personnel in Germany. Benedict also met with people “who care for those injured by these crimes,” according to a statement from the Vatican press office.

On Thursday, the pope met with Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Christian Wulf. He also gave a speech before the Reichstag, Germany’s parliament, in which he spoke of the “inviolable dignity of every single human person.”

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