Pope Benedict spoke out against mockery of what is sacred during his first open-air mass Sunday in the southern German region of Bavaria. The pope is spending six days visiting the places where he was born and grew up.
Under a brilliant sun, thousands of enthusiastic pilgrims gathered in a field on the outskirts of Munich for the first of the masses the pope will celebrate during his visit. When he arrived in his glass enclosed popemobile, many in the crowd cheered and waved the blue and white flag of Bavaria as well as the white and yellow Vatican flag.
The Benedict Bell, a gift by the city of Traunstein, pealed before the start of the mass. The pope and concelebrants were dressed in green vestments, the color of hope. After being welcomed by the Archbishop of Munich, Cardinal Fredrich Wetter, the pope addressed those gathered.
He said that making a mockery of the sacred is often considered an exercise of freedom. But he said this cynicism is not the kind of tolerance that the people of the world want or are looking for.
He also said that the poorer parts of the world have something important to teach the wealthier West about faith. People in Asia and Africa, he said, admire the scientific and technical progress of the West, but at the same time they are frightened by a form of rationality prevalent in the West that totally excludes God from man's vision.
The pope said that the tolerance that the world urgently needs includes the fear of God and respect for what others hold sacred. He added that this sense of respect can be reborn in the Western world only if faith in God is reborn.
Pope Benedict has been getting a warm welcome in his native Germany. On the plane, he said he was coming to his native land with a sense of joyful expectation of a great feast of faith.
His first message to his countrymen after arriving was to urge them to keep their faith. The pope has been concerned about growing secular trends in the West.
This trip marks the second time he has visited Germany since his election as pope in April of last year. Shortly after becoming pope, he attended the World Youth Festival in Cologne. This visit is entirely focused on the southern German region of Bavaria, where he grew up and lived before being assigned to the Vatican in 1981.
During his six-day trip he will visit the small town where he was born and spent the first two years of his life. He will also go to Freising, where he was ordained a priest, and to Regensburg, where he taught theology.
Before returning to the Vatican, on Wednesday the pope will also visit the graves of his sister and parents and spend a day with his elder brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger.