ON THE PAPAL FLIGHT TO GERMANY — Pope Benedict XVI met with reporters this morning aboard the papal plane to Germany. He answered four questions: one in German and three in Italian.
The pope was asked about the number of German Catholics formally renouncing their membership in the church. He said people leave for a number of reasons and the formal declaration often is the last step in a long process of moving away from the Catholic community.
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.
He 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.”
Pope Benedict, who has been in Rome for some 30 years, was asked if he still feels German. He said, yes, a person’s cultural roots can’t be cut easily and, besides, most of the books he reads are written in German.
Asked about the planned protests in Germany during his visit, the pope said they were normal in a secularized, democratic society.
But, he said, there are also “great expectations and great love for the pope in Germany.”
The pope added that in many sectors of the German population, there is a growing sense of a need for a moral voice in society.