As he announced in last Sunday's Angelus, Benedict XVI dedicated his general audience today to commenting upon his recent apostolic trip to Bavaria. The audience, held in St. Peter's Square, was attended by more than 40,000 people.
The Pope affirmed how his journey to the land of his birth had been not just "a simple return to the past, but also a providential opportunity to look with hope to the future. The motto of my visit, 'those who believe are never alone,' was meant as an invitation to reflect upon the involvement of all the baptized in the one Church of Christ, within which we are never alone but in constant communion with God and with all the faithful."
After recalling his stay in Munich, where he used to be archbishop, and his visit to the Marian shrine of Altotting, the Holy Father went on to refer to his meeting with students and professors of the University of Regensburg.
"I chose the theme," he said, "of the relationship between faith and reason. In order to introduce my audience to the dramatic nature and current importance of the subject, I quoted some words from a Christian-Muslim dialogue from the 14th century in which the Christian - the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus - presented to his Muslim interlocutor, in a manner we find incomprehensibly brusque, the problem of the relationship between faith and violence.
"This quotation, unfortunately, has lent itself to misunderstandings. However, to an attentive reader of my text it is clear that in no way did I wish to make my own the negative words pronounced by the medieval emperor, and that their polemical content does not express my personal convictions. My intentions were quite otherwise: on the basis of what Manuel II subsequently said in a positive sense ... concerning the reason that must guide us in transmitting the faith, I wished to explain that not religion and violence, but religion and reason, go together.
"The theme of my talk was, then, the relationship between faith and reason," he added. "I wished to call for a dialogue of the Christian faith with the modern world and for dialogue between all cultures and religions. I hope that at various moments of my visit - when, for example, in Munich I underlined how it important it is to respect what is sacred for others - what emerged was my deep respect for all the great religions, and in particular for Muslims who 'worship the one God,' and with whom we are committed to promoting 'peace, liberty, social justice and moral values for the benefit of all humanity.'
"I trust, therefore, that following the initial reactions, my words at the University of Regensburg may constitute an impulse and encouragement towards positive, even self-critical, dialogue both among religions and between modern reason and Christian faith."
Benedict concluded his reminiscences of his Bavarian trip by recalling his meeting with clergy in the cathedral of Freising, where he was ordained a priest.