Pope to meet German Muslims

Pope Benedict XVI is to meet Muslim leaders in Germany on Saturday, as he continues a four-day visit to his native country.

It follows the Pope’s meeting with Protestant and Jewish groups in the city of Cologne.

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On Friday, the Pope paid his respects at a synagogue in Cologne – the first such visit by a pontiff in Germany.

The Pope warned of rising anti-Semitism and offered prayers at a memorial for Jews killed during the Nazi era.

On the third day of his trip, the Pope will receive the members of a Turkish Islamic body that operates many of Germany’s mosques in Cologne, Reuters news agency reported.

Germany is estimated to have some 3m Muslims, most of whom are of Turkish descent.

Pope Benedict has repeatedly voiced his opposition to Turkey’s efforts to join the European Union, describing as a country in “permanent contrast” to Europe.

The Pope is also expected to meet Germany’s Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and opposition leader Angela Merkel as he continues a trip originally scheduled for Pope John Paul II, who died in April.
‘More to be done’

Addressing Jewish leaders at the synagogue, he said: “Today, sadly, we are witnessing the rise of new signs of anti-Semitism and various forms of a general hostility toward foreigners.

“How can we fail to see in this a reason for concern and vigilance?”

The synagogue – destroyed by the Nazis in 1939 and reconstructed 20 years later – contains a memorial to the Jews who died in the Holocaust, 11,000 of whom lived in the city.

The Pope said progress had been made in improving relations between Catholics and Jews, but that “much more remains to be done”.

“We must come to know one another much more and much better,” he said.

Pope Benedict’s visit marks a continuation of his predecessor Pope John Paul II’s path, after he became the first pontiff to visit a synagogue, in Rome in 1986.

Young Catholics

About 400,000 Christians are in Cologne for a Catholic World Youth Festival. Their numbers are expected to double when the Pope preaches at an outdoor mass on Sunday.

The World Youth Day festival, invented by the late Pope, is held in a different part of the world every three years.

The Pope has frequently bemoaned the waning role of the Church in Europe and says he hopes his trip will help kick-start “a wave of new faith among young people”.

Vatican observers will be watching to see what sort of relationship he is able to establish with young Catholics, the BBC’s Rome correspondent David Willey says.

Many of them have been openly critical of the prohibitions he issued during the 20 years when he headed the Roman Catholic Church’s disciplinary body.


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