Pope earns rare praise from leading German leftist

Thu Aug 25, 2011 5:27pm EDT
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By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS (Reuters) - Pope Benedict has reaped praise before his visit to his German homeland next month from one of the last people one would expect -- the sharp-tongued leader of the former communists from old East Germany.

Gregor Gysi, parliamentary leader for a small party in the German Bundestag called The Left, thanked the conservative pontiff Thursday for consistently preaching that a modern society must have moral norms in order to function properly.

"It won't work without the concept of the good," he wrote in the weekly Christ und Welt. "But modern science can't tell us what is good. Its concepts focus on empirical experience. Ideas such as morality play no role there."

Despite his reputation as a staunch conservative, Gysi wrote, Benedict turns out to be a modern theologian who says societies need both religious traditions and rational arguments to forge the moral consensus they need to operate.

"The pope says neither can do this alone," he wrote, referring to one of the pope's trademark teachings. "That a pope says that about religion is not necessarily something one could have expected."

The Bavarian-born pontiff, now 84, will address parliament in Berlin, meet Protestants in Erfurt in eastern Germany and meet young Catholics in Freiburg in the southwest during his state visit to Germany on September 22-25.


The praise from Gysi, who enjoys strong support among former members of the atheist communist party that ruled East Germany until 1990, echoed an earlier reassessment of former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger by Germany's best-known left-wing philosopher.   Continued...

<p>Pope Benedict XVI waves as he arrives to lead the weekly general audience at his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, in southern Rome, August 24, 2011. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi</p>