BY CHRISTINA FARRELL
IN THE FIRST full-length radio interview ever given by a pope, Benedict XVI has warned that Europe is caught up in a crisis of self-pity that threatens to undermine its foundations.
Speaking to Vatican Radio on Monday, in advance of his trip to Germany for the World Youth Day celebrations, the Bavarian-born Pontiff highlighted the many problems facing the Church.
He accepted that in modern western society there were many “lead weights” that were turning people away from Christianity. “We are almost caught up in a kind of self-pity and self-condemnation,” he said.
The Pope told Eberhard von Gemmingen, head of Vatican Radio’s German service, that he hoped to inject a wave of new faith among the thousands of young pilgrims in Cologne.
“We hope that the meeting of so many people from all continents will give a new impetus to the old continent,” he added.
More than a million pilgrims were expected in the Rhineland city this week as excitement over the event grew. But the secular media have been quick to point out the dilemma facing many Catholics who applaud the Pope yet find themselves disenchanted with many aspects of Church teaching.
Der Spiegel’s front page read: “Believers desperately sought. The Pope’s homecoming to an un-Christian country.” However, Pope Benedict has shown himself to be aware of the difficulties and also adept at using the media to convey his message.
He said that Europe had lost touch with its roots and was sliding into “inevitable contradictions” but the continent “with all its dangers and hopes, can only be tamed and led back to greatness if it recognises again the sources of its power”.
The four-day visit to Cologne will be Benedict’s first overseas trip since he was elected in April.
He is expected to take a cruise down the Rhine, and to meet the German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and other political leaders ahead of September’s General Election.