German parliament chief defends pope address

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The president of Germany's parliament defended Wednesday his invitation to Pope Benedict XVI to address MPs, saying not to have done so would have been an historic blunder.

The address would be "an exceptional historical event", Norbert Lammert told Vatican Radio, adding the decision of some lawmakers not to attend was nevertheless "legitimate".

"There is no doubt that in the future, nobody will understand that a German pope visited his country of birth and a parliament did not make use of the opportunity to ask him to address the German people," Lammert said.

This would be the first time, added the Christian Democrat politician, that a pope of any nationality speaks before an elected German parliament.

In his first state visit to Germany, which takes him from Berlin to Freiburg over the next four days, Benedict faces a clamour for change, with calls for reform on many fronts -- from accepting divorce, female priests and married ministers, to acknowledging gay couples and giving lay people greater roles.

About 100 leftist, Green and Social Democrat lawmakers, have decided to boycott his address to parliament on Thursday.

© 2011 AFP

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