According to the Vatican, a papal trip to Germany next year has not yet been fixed. The Papal States on Thursday rejected media reports to that effect. Nevertheless: Thuringia's prime minister Althaus continues to hope for the journey.
The online portal "bild.de" reported that the head of the Catholic Church intends to visit the eastern German states in April 2009. Visits are planned, among other places, in Eichsfeld and Berlin, it was said. Accordingly, a meeting with Federal President Horst Kohler and Berlin's Governing Mayor Klaus Wowereit (SPD) is planned. It would be the third visit of the German pope to his homeland. In 2005, he took part in the World Youth Day in Cologne, and a year later he visited his home state of Bavaria for several days.
Althaus at the Pap
Thuringia's Prime Minister Dieter Althaus (CDU) expects to see Pope Benedict XVI. in the coming year to a visit in his federal state. Althaus said on Thursday after an audience with the head of the church in the Vatican that he was optimistic that the Pope would also come to Thuringia during his next state visit to Germany. As a date he named the first half of 2009. Although there is still no decision; however one sees in the Vatican an "openness" for it, underlined the German Vatican Ambassador Hans-Henning Horstmann before journalists.Althaus said a possible destination is the state capital of Erfurt. The only Catholic theological faculty in eastern Germany is located there. In 1974, the then theology professor Joseph Ratzinger had given lectures at the training center. According to Althaus, visits by Benedict XVI would also be possible. The visit is conceivable at the Wartburg and in the Eichsfeld, where around half of the 160,000.000 Thuringian Catholics live.The conversation with the Pope was good and open, the Prime Minister stressed. Topics were the situation of the family, educational ies and the political situation almost 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In terms of content, he said, this was a continuation of a meeting to which Benedict XVI had been invited. Althaus had received a good two years ago.
Social market economy
According to Althaus, the talks also dealt with family, education and economic ies. Families must be supported in such a way that they "develop vitality from within themselves" and are strengthened in their ability to perform and raise children, the prime minister said, referring to his Thuringian family offensive. In the field of education, the state has ensured that a Christian profile is visible through church-run schools in the two decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall.Althaus said he agreed with the pope that a new phase in the development of the social market economy is needed, one that responds to the ies of economic performance and social security. They also discussed progress and problems in the political development of eastern Germany. The head of the church was "highly interested especially in the situation of a young country like Thuringia".
Wartburg Castle as ecumenical symbol during papal visit
Regarding the pope's trip to Germany, Althaus said, in conversation with Benedict XVI. Wartburg Castle with its "special symbolic power" had played a role. He mentioned the meetings of the fraternities, which had demanded "unity and justice and freedom" for Germany even before the Hambach Festival (1832).He also recalled the stay of the saint and patron saint of the state, Elisabeth, at Wartburg Castle in the 13th century. Luther's work on the translation of the Bible at this site. Thus the Wartburg is "for the ecumenism a quite exemplary symbol".