GERMANY took a much-needed breather this week from its unsought role as eurozone saviour to engage in some painful soul-searching on faith and religion. The reason for the change in gear? The first official visit to his home country by German-born Pope Benedict XVI.
Hopes that the brief tour would provide his countrymen and women with good cheer and comfort were soon dashed as Germany engaged in an acrimonious debate on the role of the pope and the Catholic church. I normally pay scant attention to the pontiff’s travels. Europe today with its multiple crises offers plenty to mull over. The pope grabbed my attention because I landed in Berlin on Sept 21 just as the city was gearing up for his visit.
Actually, that’s not quite correct. There was no excitement — just lots of moaning about the disruption the pontiff was going to cause to the lives of ordinary Berliners. My young taxi driver was the first to inform me that “tomorrow is going to be a very busy day”. Many roads would be closed, he said, as the police mounted a massive security operation to ensure the pope’s safety. “Not a good day to be on the roads — or to try and attend a conference,” he warned.