Nazis, Communists like 'acid rain' on Christians: pope

24th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Pope Benedict XVI Saturday paid tribute to Catholics who kept the faith alive under Nazi and communist regimes, as he celebrated mass for around 30,000 people in the former East Germany.

Religion was oppressed under both Adolf Hitler's Nazis and the communists in East Germany, whose effect on the Christian faith was like "acid rain," Benedict told a cheering, flag-waving crowd in Erfurt.

"You have had to endure first a brown and then a red dictatorship, which acted on the Christian faith like acid rain," he told worshippers. Erfurt was home to one of the most resilient Catholic communities under communism.

"If we think back thirty years to ...1981, when this city formed part of the German Democratic Republic, who would have thought that a few years later, the wall and the barbed wire at the border would have come down?" said the pontiff.

"And if we think even further back, some 70 years, to the year 1941, in the days of National Socialism, who could have predicted that the so-called thousand-year Reich would turn to dust and ashes just four years later?" he added.

Those that clung to their beliefs "accepted personal disadvantages in order to live their faith," said the 84-year-old pope, who himself grew up under the Nazi regime in Germany.

Benedict was speaking a day after a meeting with victims of sexual abuse in Germany, which he said left him "deeply shaken" and was "very, very emotional."

Later Saturday, the pontiff continues his packed four-day trip with a journey to Freiburg, one of Germany's most staunchly Catholic cities, after reaching out to Jews, Muslims and anti-papal protesters in his first two days.

© 2011 AFP

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