Pope to address parliament during Berlin visit: speaker

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Pope Benedict XVI will address the Bundestag lower house of parliament during a visit to his native Germany next September, the chamber's speaker said in a statement Thursday.

"I am pleased that the pope, on the occasion of his official visit, has accepted my invitation," Norbert Lammert said in the statement issued by the Bundestag.

The pope is due to visit Germany September 22 to 25, 60 years after he was ordained as a priest.

Beyond Berlin, he is due to travel to Freiburg in the southwest of the country and Erfurt in the former communist east.

It will be Benedict's first state visit to Germany, following appearances in the western city of Cologne while it was hosting the World Youth Day event in 2005 and his native region of Bavaria in 2006, which was declared a private visit.

The election of then cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in April 2005 to succeed the late Pope John Paul II was a source of great pride in Germany, whose population is about 30 percent Roman Catholic.

But sexual abuse scandals involving priests have done serious damage in Germany, with a major public outcry and a wave of members leaving the Church.

The 83-year-old pontiff has himself faced allegations that, as Cardinal Ratzinger when he headed the Vatican's watchdog for morals and doctrinal issues, and earlier as the archbishop of Munich, he failed to take action against paedophile priests.

© 2010 AFP

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