Pope to pray with Protestants but sees no breakthrough

Sun Sep 18, 2011 2:19pm EDT
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BERLIN (Reuters) - Pope Benedict said on Sunday he would pray with German Protestants during a visit this week to the cradle of the European Reformation, but played down expectations of a breakthrough in ecumenical ties.

The pope's September 22-25 visit to Germany, his native country, has prompted some Protestants to call for more ecumenical measures like joint communions and Catholic recognition of Protestant churches. Liberal Catholics were also hoping to hear talk of reforms such as more tolerance of divorced Catholics.

Benedict will visit Erfurt, one-time home of Martin Luther, whose reform movement split Western Europe's Christians into Protestants and Catholics 600 years ago.

"In the Augustinian monastery and church where Luther began his path, I will have the opportunity to meet representatives of Germany's Protestant Church," Benedict said in a message televised by German broadcaster ARD.

"We will pray together, listen to the word of God, think together and discuss," he said. But he added: "We do not expect any sensations."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the daughter of a Lutheran pastor who grew up in the former communist, officially atheist East Germany, said Christian unity would be a focus of the pope's visit.

The Pope will encounter indifference and protest in eastern Germany but will also visit the staunchly Catholic Freiburg.

(Reporting by Alexandra Hudson)

<p>Pope Benedict XVI leads the Sunday angelus prayer from the balcony of his summer residence in Castelgandolfo in southern Rome September 18, 2011. REUTERS/Tony Gentile</p>