Current Events

Special Report on Pope Benedict’s Visit to Germany

Germany Before Pope’s Visit

Der Spiegel Online reported on August 15, 2005, about the faith and belief system of Germans. The article was published BEFORE Pope Benedict XVI visited Cologne during the World Youth Day. The article pointed out:

“The churches are empty, the politicians are non-believers and the people in the east are complete strangers to God… Most Germans have developed their own private concept of faith. For them, the Big Bang has replaced the myh of creation, while catastrophic climate change is their new apocalypse. And depending on where they are in life, they enjoy small servings of ecstasy in the form of sex & drugs & rock ‘n’ roll or a concert subscription for two. At best, they pray on Wednesdays and Sundays, when the lottery numbers are announced… Germany is not a godless country — on the contrary, it has many gods… Two-thirds of young people say that it’s cool to believe in something. Religious symbols and emblems are hot items in youth culture — a cross dangling from their necks… Faith, at least the kind of faith being taught in the Catholic and even the Protestant Church, is a minority position in Germany. The Infratest survey conducted for SPIEGEL revealed that even those who consider themselves religious are often considerably at odds with the church’s positions. Just under two-thirds of Catholics — and less than half of all Protestants — believe in life after death, a central tenet of Christianity. Twenty-seven percent of the faithful say that God is not all-powerful, a concept that also deeply contradicts Christian teachings…”

The article also pointed out that “Thirty-eight percent of Germans now say that when a person dies, he is not judged by his maker, but comes back to live another life on earth — they believe in the Buddhist idea of reincarnation.”

It continued:

“In 2003, 180,000 Protestants left the church. Only 60,000 joined… [T]he number of Catholics has decreased every year since 1974. The latest figures for 2003 show that around 65,000 more Catholics were buried as were baptized. Far more people leave the church than enter it… The [Catholic] church has very little following in eastern Germany. But even in the German parliament the pope’s supporters are few and far between. He can only really count on two members from small constituencies to vote in line with Catholic dogma. Unlike in Italy and in Poland, no German political parties follow the Vatican line in their decision-making process.”

However, the magazine continued to point out that the current situation “may be changing. Even in the German parliament, there are signs of a shift… The taboo on religion is being whittled away by the success of George W. Bush’s last election campaign, which concentrated on values, and of course by Rome’s religious upswing. Even [Protestant] Angela Merkel, the opposition candidate for German elections, joined the mass pilgrimage to St. Peter’s Square after the death of John Paul II. She saw how hundreds of thousands of pope followers waited in line for 11, 12 or 13 hours to say goodbye to the pope. And it appears that she returned from Rome rather taken with Catholicism.”

Germany During Pope’s Visit

Reuters reported on August 19, 2005:

“Pope Benedict, making a historic visit on Friday to a synagogue once destroyed by the Nazis, said Christians and Jews must join forces so the ‘insane racist ideology’ that led to the Holocaust never resurfaces… Many Jews say Pius, Pope from 1939 to 1958, turned a deaf ear to the Holocaust. The Vatican says he worked behind the scenes to save Jews and did not speak out more forcefully for fear of instigating Nazi reprisals.”

The German magazine Focus emphasized, however, in its article of August 19, 2005, that Pope Benedict refused to address the culpability of the Catholic Church or Christians in general who were partially responsible for the rise of Anti-Semitism in Germany. Nevertheless, as AFP reported, “By its conclusion, the leader of Germany’s Jewish community Paul Spiegel said he was ‘extremely impressed by what he [the pope] said and how he said it.'”

On August 20, 2005, The Associated Press reported:

“Benedict began his day by meeting in private with [German Chancellor Gerhard] Schroeder. He also met with Angela Merkel, Schroeder’s conservative challenger in Sept. 18 national elections. Afterward, Merkel, leader of the Christian Democratic Union and the daughter of a Protestant minister, said: ‘It was a great joy to see the Holy Father. It was great to meet a German pope on German soil.’ Schroeder, also Protestant, as are about a third of Germans, had no immediate public comment.”

AFP reported on Sunday, August 20, 2005:

“Pope Benedict XVI issued a ringing back-to-basics call to young Catholics at a giant open-air mass attended by over a million young pilgrims at the Catholic World Youth day festival… Some 700,000 had attended a prayer-vigil with Benedict the night before, but the World Youth Day organisers said the numbers had swelled to ‘more than one million’ by Sunday’s mass… The young crowd gave Benedict a noisy reception under a huge canopy of swirling flags when he arrived aboard his popemobile, waving and blessing the crowd… Benedict urged the young Catholics to keep God at the centre of their lives and underlined the importance of Sunday mass and receiving Holy Communion… Unusually for a pope, he even used the phrase ‘nuclear fission’ to describe the spiritual effect of receiving Holy Communion, in which Catholics believe bread and wine blessed by a priest is turned into the body and blood of Christ in imitation of the Last Supper. Benedict was due to return to Rome on Sunday evening at the end of what is being seen as a highly successful visit during which he also met German Jewish and Muslim leaders… [On] Saturday he urged Muslim leaders to do more to combat the ‘cruel fanaticism’ of terrorism that aimed to poison ties between Christians and Muslims.”

Deutsche Welle reported on August 20, 2005:

“Early in the day, the pope was reported to have told German politicians he was in favor of introducing Islamic instruction into the German school curriculum as an equal to the currently Catholic and Protestant religion courses provided… Several German bishops have called for placing Islam on an equal footing with Christianity in schools…”

The Boston Globe reported on August 19:

“Pope Benedict XVI, the first German pontiff in centuries, yesterday triumphantly returned to his homeland, cruising up the Rhine through a city and a vast crowd packed with reminders of Germany’s troubled past and its hopeful future. Thousands of young Germans donned buttons declaring ‘Wir Sind Papst,’ literally ‘We are pope,’ [a slogan coined by the daily tabloid, “Bild”] reflecting the burst of national pride that the election of a German cardinal as pope, and the arrival of hundreds of thousands of young people here for World Youth Day, has occasioned in a nation still at times uncomfortable with expressions of nationalism… As a cardinal, with the name Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict was highly controversial in his native Germany, where much of the church is more liberal than the new pope. But the nation has embraced him as a symbol, even if many do not agree with every element of his theology — the tone of the press coverage here has been jubilant, even as German Catholics, like others in Europe, are increasingly unlikely to attend church…

“Benedict, who is from Bavaria but spent time here in the Rhineland as a theology professor at the University of Bonn, shared briefly in the patriotism at the airport arrival ceremony. ‘With deep joy I find myself for the first time after my election to the Chair of Peter in my beloved homeland, in Germany,’ he said… ‘With deep emotion I thank God who has enabled me to begin my pastoral visits outside Italy with this visit to the nation of my birth.’…

“[F]or many, Benedict’s theological views are beside the point. ‘Germany is among the least religious countries in Europe today, but his election is a great source of national pride — the fact that he was elected to this post is more significant than the fact that he is Catholic,’ said Daniel Levy, an assistant professor of sociology at Stony Brook University. ‘The truth is that the man has been living in Rome for 25 years, so he’s much more of a cosmopolitan clergyman than he is a German, but he’s going to be appropriated as a German, and one who stands for a universal set of values.'”

Germany After Pope’s Visit

On August 22, 2005, Zenit published the following headlines: “German Press Upbeat on Benedict XVI’s Impact. Just About All Show Youth Day in Positive Light.” The article pointed out: “The German press took note of the unexpected impact that Benedict XVI made on young people, judging by the headlines at newsstands in the city center…”

On August 24, 2005, The Associated Press published Pope Benedict’s reflections on his visit to Germany. The article stated:

“Benedict also referred to his meeting with Protestant and Orthodox Christian representatives, saying it was significant that it was held in Germany–the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation. ‘The role of Germany in ecumenical dialogue is important both for the sad story of the divisions as well as for the significant role it has played in the path of reconciliation,’ he said.”

To Conclude:

Many Germans will follow the pope, even though they might not agree or even understand his doctrinal positions. In fact, even many Catholic lay members have really no concept of some of the official teachings of Roman Catholicism. As the Bible reveals, other factors will determine and persuade many Germans, as well as many people in other Catholic and Protestant countries, to follow enthusiastically the head of the Catholic Church. We are seeing the beginning of this process right now.

Internet Space for Europe

On August 18, 2005, the EUobserver reported about European developments regarding the Internet, as follows:

“After more than seven years of preparation, European companies and individuals can soon start to pre-register new .eu internet domain names… companies with registered national and EU trademarks, public bodies and those with rights acquired by use will have the exclusive right to gain the domain name equivalent to their trademark… The commission, which is conducting the whole process, hopes to create a new ‘Internet space’ for Europe, as opposed to domains such as .com or .org, mainly registered in the US and bound by its laws.”

England and Denmark vs. Euro

On August 19, 2005, the EUobserver reported about a further trend in England and Denmark to reject the euro. The article pointed out:

“For the first time since 1971, the Royal Mint is preparing to redesign British coins. The plans, announced on Thursday (18 August), have sparked claims from the Vote No campaign that the government has ruled out joining the eurozone, the Financial Times reports.”

The article also stated: “Meanwhile, in Denmark, which is also not a member of the eurozone, the likelihood of joining the single currency also appears to be dropping. Earlier this month, Danish polls revealed record low support for joining euro.”

Memorial for Evicted Germans?

On August 18, 2005, the EUobserver reported about the expulsion of Germans from Eastern Europe after World War II. The article explained:

“Germany’s would-be chancellor Angela Merkel has angered Poles with her support for controversial plans to build a memorial to the nine million Germans expelled from Eastern Europe after WWII… The idea to publicly recognise the violence carried out against the Germans fleeing from the countries the Nazi had occupied between 1939 and 1945 has caused concerns in both Poland and the Czech Republic.”

This discussion is sadly reminiscent of the current expulsion of Jewish settlers in lands occupied by the Israelis. Forced evictions of people–most of them innocent and having acted in good faith, who have lived most of their lives in certain regions–is often a terrible and tragic consequence of the horrors of war.

Germany’s Economy on a Rebound

The Economist, the influential British weekly, wrote in the cover story of its latest edition:

“In the past five years, Germany, long the most costly place in Europe in which to do business, has won a new competitive edge over France, Italy, the Netherlands and even Britain.”

The magazine continued: “Given this corporate turnaround and strong export performance, it is not surprising that both profits and the stockmarket have been rising sharply. More significantly, recent surveys of business confidence have been encouraging… With unemployment now starting to come down, consumer confidence looks set to revive too… This suggests that domestic demand, the weakest link in the German economy, may be poised for a rebound… The story from Germany is about to become surprisingly good.”

New German Elections in September

The Associated Press reported on August 25, 2005: “Germany’s highest court ruled Thursday that federal elections can go ahead as planned Sept. 18, dismissing complaints against the early vote from two lawmakers. The Federal Constitutional Court’s 7-1 decision removed the final obstacle to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s drive to hold elections a year ahead of schedule. Campaigning is already in full swing…”

The article continued: “President Horst Koehler set the ballot for Sept. 18 after Schroeder deliberately lost a vote of confidence in parliament’s lower house in July. Under the German constitution, the president can dissolve parliament and set early elections if the government convinces him that it no longer has a stable majority. Social Democrat lawmaker Jelena Hoffmann and Werner Schulz from Schroeder’s coalition partner, the Greens, argued that Schroeder still has the support of their two parties and the vote of no confidence should not count,” as it violated the spirit of the German Constitution.

The decision of seven judges to allow for new elections (only one judge dissented) was expected, although some legal commentaries question its legality, pointing out that the decision was motivated and dictated by what most politicians and most German citizens wanted, rather than by what the law regulates, under the German Constitution. Bild Online stated that the political career of the two plaintiffs (Hoffmann and Schulz) is over. If so, they paid the price for following their conscience. For that, they must be congratulated.

Pagan Goddess Asked For Help

Reuters reported on August 19, 2005, about attempts in Thailand to deal with the aftermaths of the recent tsunami, killing thousands of people. The article wrote:

“With Asian tourists still shunning its southern beaches, Thailand is calling in a revered Chinese sea goddess to ward off the restive spirits of the thousands who died in last December’s tsunami. A statue of Godmother Ruby, known as Mazu in Chinese, will be brought to the Thai island of Phuket from the Chinese coastal province of Fujian next month for ghost-clearing rites… Mazu, a Taoist goddess of the sea, has a huge following among fishermen and shipworkers in coastal provinces of southern China and Taiwan.”

One is reminded of a prophecy in Revelation 9:20: “But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk.”

Gaza Evictions

The Contra Costa Times reported on August 22, 2005, that “Settlers from the last remaining Jewish community in Gaza were being driven out of the Palestinian territory as Israel brought down the curtain on its 38-year occupation… bulldozers were demolishing empty settler homes in other parts of Gaza… Prime Minister Ariel Sharon… who declared only three years ago that Netzarim was as integral a part of Israel as Tel Aviv, has become the settlers’ number one enemy by forcing them out of their homes… Sharon’s disengagement plan has raised international hopes of a genuine revival of the moribund Middle East peace process, left in tatters by five years of Israeli-Palestinian violence. However Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas has said Israel can only prove it was serious about peace if it stopped its West Bank settlement programme, something Sharon has vowed to continue.”

AFP reported on August 23:

“Israel completed its evacuation of parts of the occupied Palestinian territories after the last hardline resistance to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s historic pullout crumbled. A day after the last settlers were cleared out of the Gaza Strip, army and police evacuated the radical settlements of Homesh and Sanur in the northern West Bank, an area Jews say was promised to them by God but regarded by Palestinians as an integral part of their promised future state… Sharon, when in opposition, had urged settlers to ‘seize the hills’. But he now argues it is unrealistic to expect such isolated settlements as Sanur and Homesh, which lie close to the flashpoint West Bank city of Jenin, can remain part of Israel in any final status agreement. He applied the same logic to the Gaza pullout which was completed two weeks ahead of schedule on Monday when the community of Netzarim was evacuated.”

WorldNetDaily reported this week:

“Iran is taking great interest in Gaza as the Israelis complete their disengagement… Tehran is funding plans for a flotilla of ships to repatriate the territory with Palestinian terrorists from Lebanon and elsewhere, working with Fatah dissidents to undermine the Palestinian Authority and spearheading an effort to make the Gaza Strip a beachhead of Islamist terrorism within six months.”

Plague of Frogs in France

The Independent published an interesting article on Sunday, August 21, 2005, about a plague of frogs in France. When reading the article, one is reminded of the Biblical plague of frogs in ancient Egypt. It was stated:

“A campaign in France to exterminate frogs may sound like the beginning of a civil war, but these are no ordinary frogs… the most intensive effort so far [is underway] to terminate a plague of giant Californian bullfrogs which is threatening to disrupt the ecology of the Gironde, Dordogne and several other départements. The aggressive and voracious bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana), introduced illegally 37 years ago, can grow to more than 4lbs in weight and almost 2ft long. It consumes other frogs, fish, lizards and even small birds… Destroying the frogs is not easy, however. The Gironde fisheries protection association attacked a pond full of bullfrogs with electricity a few years ago. The frogs fought back. The hunters battled with them for two hours. They killed just one frog before they gave up. Assaults on the frogs have also been made with nets and by draining ponds, to little effect.”

The article continued to explain that the most effective way to kill the frogs is by shooting them with rifles at night, but it added: “Even so, experimental attacks on ponds and lakes over the past 11 months have killed only 120 frogs. A much bigger offensive, starting this weekend, aims to exterminate all the bullfrogs in France within five to 10 years.”

Televangelist Controversial–Again

As The Associated Press reported on August 23, “Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson suggested on-air that American operatives assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to stop his country from becoming ‘a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism… We don’t need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator,’ he continued. ‘It’s a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.'”

The article also explained that “Robertson has made controversial statements in the past. In October 2003, he suggested that the State Department be blown up with a nuclear device. He has also said that feminism encourages women to ‘kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.'”

On August 24, The Associated Press continued its report, as follows:

“Venezuela condemned American religious broadcaster Pat Robertson for suggesting President Hugo Chavez should be killed, saying he committed a crime that is punishable in the United States. Officials in Washington distanced themselves from Robertson, saying his statements did not reflect the position of the U.S. government.”

The article continued: “Political assassination was made off-limits by former President Ford in an executive order in the mid-1970s.”

Some religious leaders began, with half-hearted, carefully worded statements, to somewhat distance themselves from Robertson’s comments, reasoning that he spoke as a citizen in a political context. However, in most cases, clear words or positions were missing. Robertson himself apologized for his statements, saying that he spoke out of frustration.

The problem is, of course, that most religious leaders refuse to follow the clear Biblical teachings on war. If they allow for wars under certain circumstances, why then would Robertson be so wrong with his opinion, as originally voiced? Please read our free booklet, “Should You Fight in War?”, to learn God’s way of thinking on this grossly misunderstood subject.

Extreme Weather in Europe

On August 23, 2005, AFP reported about extreme weather conditions in Europe. The article explained:

“Rescue workers struggled to contain floods that left a trail of death and destruction across parts of central Europe, as parched Spain and Portugal in contrast battled dozens of raging wildfires… three days of torrential downpours in central and eastern Switzerland turned Alpine streams into raging torrents and triggered flooding around the country’s lakes… Floods also hit Austria…, Bulgaria and southern Germany… In Germany, flooding was worst surrounding the popular Alpine ski resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria. The town, where 105 liters per cubic metre fell overnight, was almost completely cut off.”

The article continued:

“But it was a far different story in Portugal and Spain, ravaged by wildfires and the worst drought since the mid-1940s. Nearly 3,000 firefighters and soldiers battled dozens of blazes in Portugal… Portuguese forces were backed by nine firefighting planes and helicopters rushed in from five fellow European Union nations — France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands — after Lisbon appealed for help… In Spain’s northwestern Galicia province, firefighters battled 24 blazes, including one that has burned for three days near Santiago de Compostela.”

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