October 4, 2011: Father Barron, writing as a guest columnist for the Catholic News Agency, examines the importance of Pope Benedict XVI's recent trip to his homeland in "Pope Benedict XVI Among the Germans." Read the column here.
It is with a particular fascination that I’ve been following the speeches that Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger) has been delivering in his native Germany. We can certainly hear Herr Doktor Professor Ratzinger in the distinctively academic rhetoric of the addresses, but we also hear the voice of a pastor, uttering a cri de coeur to his wandering flock. In his first speech on the tarmac in Berlin, upon being welcomed by the officials of the German government, Benedict XVI specified that his main purpose was not to foster diplomatic relations between the German nation and the Vatican City State—as welcome as that would be—but rather to speak of God.
This might appear a commonplace—a Pope talking about God—but Benedict uttered those words in what is generally acknowledged to be the most secularized area on the planet, a cultural region marked by a sort of forgetfulness of God, a setting aside of ultimate reality, a complacent resting in the goods and joys of the empirically verifiable world. Sociologists have suggested that the European culture of the late 20th and early 21st centuries is the very first one ever to have embraced a predominantly secularist ideology—and nowhere is this secularism more apparent and more deeply rooted than in northern Germany. There are many reasons for this—anger at the Church, disagreement over particular moral positions that the Church has taken, a newly aggressive atheism, etc.—but I believe the principle cause is spiritual crisis prompted by the two terrible wars of the last century, fought largely on European soil and resulting in the deaths of tens of millions. Something in the European soul—especially the German soul—just broke in the twentieth century, and the damage has not yet been repaired. And so the Vicar of Christ has indeed come to his homeland as a kind of missionary...
Read the rest of Father Barron's column here.