Pope to visit Germany from 22 to 25 September 2011

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Pope Benedict XVI is to make his third official state visit to his native Germany from 22 to 25 September 2011, Robert Zollitsch, head of the German Episcopal Conference said Tuesday.

The pontiff will travel to the archdioceses of Berlin and Freiburg in the southwest of the country and the diocese of Erfurt in the former communist east, Zollitsch said in an interview with Vatican Radio.

Benedict will spend the first day of his trip in the German capital.

Vatican and German officials are in the process of arranging a possible meeting between Benedict and Norbert Lammert, head of the Bundestag, and member of the Christian Democrat Union (CDU).

Zollitsch said the Berlin visit will be the "the political part of the trip," but did not confirm whether the pontiff will visit the Brandenburg Gate, one of the main symbols of the city, as Jean-Paul II had done in 1996.

The pontiff may visit the Maria Regina Martyrum, a memorial church built on behalf of the German Catholics in the 1960s to honour the victims of Nazism, Communism and the Second World War.

The second day of the trip, which the pope will spend in Erfurt, in eastern Germany, will be devoted to ecumenism and interreligious dialogue.

Benedict is set to meet representatives of the Lutheran evangelical community. One of Benedict's aims during his pontificate has been to improve dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans.

Zollitsch said that meetings with Jewish and Muslim leaders are also planned.

In Freiburg im Breisgau, the last leg of his German trip, Benedict is set to hold an open-air mass on Sunday September 25.

The bishop of Freiburg im Breisgau has not confirmed whether the pope will meet with victims of paedophile priests during his visit.

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

© 2010 AFP

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