Merkel, pope discuss financial crisis, Europe

22nd September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Pope Benedict XVI and Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the turmoil on the financial markets, Germany's leader said Thursday after meeting the pontiff on his first state trip to his native country.

In a brief statement after the talks, Merkel said: "We talked about the financial markets, about the fact that politicians need the power to lead for the people rather than be led, which is a very, very difficult task in the current period of globalisation."

Merkel's comments came on another day of turbulence on the markets, with stocks and the euro plunging amid concerns over the global economy.

"Obviously, the topic of Europe, which interests the pope, was also discussed. I made very clear that European unity is indispensable for us Germans, that for us it means prosperity, democracy and freedom," she added.

In reply, the pope welcomed the "solidarity" of Germany in the European debt crisis, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told reporters after the 20-minute meeting.

Merkel has come under fire both at home and abroad for what critics say is a hesitant response to the debt crisis, amid a row in the country over German contributions to the rescue fund for Greece and the debt-wracked eurozone.

The chancellor, the daughter of a Protestant pastor, said she was "delighted" to welcome the pope.

Merkel greeted the pope dressed in black and supported by a rare public appearance from her publicity-shy husband, scientist Joachim Sauer.

Benedict was due to make a landmark speech to the Bundestag lower house of parliament -- his first address to a national legislature -- later Thursday, with several dozen leftist deputies threatening to boycott the event.

Organisers also expect an eclectic group of around 20,000 to protest against the visit, demonstrating against a range of issues from the Vatican's views on gay rights to the sexual abuse scandal that erupted last year in Germany.

On the plane from Rome to Berlin, the pope said he could understand those who protested against him, saying it was "normal in a free society marked by strong secularism."

"One can't object" to such protests, he added.

"I respect those who speak out."

© 2011 AFP

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