Pope in Germany calls for unity
By Philip Pullella and Sarah Marsh
FREIBURG, Germany (Reuters) - Pope Benedict urged Catholics in his native Germany on Sunday to close ranks behind him rather than demand reforms or leave the Church, a staunchly conservative message that some who came to hear him found frustrating.
Delivering his last major address of a four-day trip at a mass for about 100,000 people at a small airport near the southwestern city of Freiburg, he said the sometimes fractious Church needed to unite around him and the German bishops.
"The Church in Germany will continue to be a blessing for the entire Catholic world if she remains faithfully united with the successor of St Peter," he said, referring to himself.
His third trip as pope to his native country has been his toughest, met by protest over sex abuse scandals and by reform calls from Catholics who view his conservative stand as outdated.
Benedict has closed the door on changes to the Church's opposition to gay marriage, married clergy or women priests, and has indicated he will not ease restrictions on divorced Catholics who have remarried outside the Church.
From highly secular Berlin to former communist Erfurt to Catholic Freiburg, he has hammered home his view that the Church cannot change merely to suit the whims of the times.
Polls say many German Catholics disagree. A record 181,000 officially quit the Church this year -- for the first time more than joined and more than those quitting Protestant churches.
Some worshippers told Reuters they were happy to have an opportunity to attend mass celebrated by the head of their Church but frustrated by his opposition to change. Continued...