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Pope Benedict XVI continued with his papal mass in Germany despite an earlier incident that day when a man fired an air gun at a security guard. The mass took place on Saturday, September 24, and the shooting occurred on the edge of the security zone in Erfurt, roughly two hours before the mass began.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said there was “no worry” for the papal entourage. The suspect was later identified by police as a 30-year-old Erfurt man from Berlin. German police said an air rifle and air pistol were found in his apartment, and that he was being held on suspicion of attempting to cause serious bodily harm.
At the mass, the pope defended traditional values saying religion must not be banished from public life, and that Christian churches are walking side by side in the battle. The pope also said, “Knowing, too, the value of family and marriage, we as Christians attach great importance to defending the integrity and the uniqueness of marriage between one man and one woman from any kind of misinterpretation.”
“Here the common engagement of Christians, including many Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians, makes a valuable contribution to building up a society equipped for the future,” he continued. After the Mass, the pope flew to the largely Catholic populated city of Freiburg in southern Germany, where roughly 25,000 people lined the streets, waving and cheering as he drove to the downtown cathedral.
At an evening prayer vigil in the outskirts of the city, he urged more than 20,000 youths to overcome “a tendency toward evil,” encompassing envy, aggression and selfishness. Speaking in Erfurt on Friday, the Pope spoke to other faiths, meeting Muslims in Berlin and, later, the leadership of the Protestant Church in Erfurt.
Later that day, in an unannounced meeting, the pope met for half an hour with victims who endured sexual abuse by priests. He met with the five victims for half an hour and expressed “deep compassion and regret.” The victims were two women and three men from across Germany and were said to have remained very calm during the meeting.
Victims’ groups have accused the pope of refusing to address the issue openly. Last year, hundreds of Germans revealed their stories of having been physically or sexually abused by members of the Catholic clergy.
The Vatican released a statement regarding the meeting with the victims stating in a that the pope was “moved and deeply shaken.” They said he expressed the hope that God “may heal the wounds of the victims and grant them inner peace.”