Benedict to use Cologne visit to 'spark wave of new faith' worldwide

On Thursday, the Pope, 78, will arrive in the Rhineland city of Cologne to attend World Youth Day, a large and meticulously organised Catholic festival which is expected to attract more than half a million mainly young people from Germany and abroad.

The visit will be the German Pontiff's first foreign trip since he was elected in April. In an interview with Vatican Radio yesterday he said he hoped his appearance would "spark a wave of new faith among young people".

However, much of Germany's media poured cold water on the Pope's aspirations. Der Spiegel devoted its front cover to the visit and carried the headline: "Believers - desperately sought. The Pope's homecoming to an un-Christian country."

The magazine also published a poll in which Germans were asked to name whom they most trusted. The police topped the list, followed by Aldi, the country's largest cut-price supermarket chain, and, only then, the Pope. Among non-believing Germans, only 18 per cent said that they trusted the Pope.

Some of the difficulty stems from the reputation Benedict earned in Germany prior to his election. As Cardinal Joseph Ratz-inger, he was known as a severe enforcer of Catholic orthodoxy - at odds with modern Germans and their acceptance of birth control, homosexuality and sex outside marriage.

The other problem is a steady decline in the number of people attending mass. Hundreds of Catholic, and Protestant, churches have been turned into shops, pubs and cinemas in attempts to find worthwhile uses for the buildings.

The dilemma has worsened since reunification and the addition to the population of some 17 million Communist-educated and largely agnostic or atheist former East Germans.

"This country trains more orthopaedic shoe manufacturers and horse grooms than Catholic priests," said Der Spiegel. "In the east German city of Magdeburg, only 8 per cent of the new-born are baptised," it added.

Young Germans are likely to be in a minority at World Youth Day with most attendees from the Catholic heartlands of Spain, Italy and France.

"For most young people, a Nike sport shoe says more about a person than membership of the church," said Matthias Sellmann, a specialist in Catholic ethics. "The church is dealing with a generation that communicates with symbols and not through concepts, discourse and agendas."

The Pope's appearance in the Alps this summer, when he was seen wearing "Serengeti" sunglasses, a baseball cap and a Cartier watch, is unlikely to persuade World Youth Day participants of any new-found ability to communicate with the younger generation.

For many young Germans, the Pope remains the prime advocate of deeply unfashionable Catholic orthodoxy. "I go to church when I feel the need to," said a 20-year-old woman who will be attending the celebrations in Cologne. "I don't go there to get lectured at for an hour by somebody who is far too old."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones