(Photo: The Reichstag building in Berlin, November 22, 2010/Pawel Kopczynski)
A rousing welcome in Berlin it may not be.
Pope Benedict’s invitation to address German parliament during his visit to his homeland next September 22-25 has not sat well with some members of the opposition. Volker Beck, the Green party floor leader, has protested that inviting a religious leader to address parliament, the Bundestag, is unprecedented and the wrong place to speak about religion.
“The German Bundestag is justifiably cautious when inviting a foreign head of state,” Beck told the German daily Die Welt. “Firstly the pope is the head of a religion and secondly the head of a state.”
Only foreign heads of state are invited to address the Bundestag. Earlier this year Israeli President Shimon Peres spoke to German parliament. Benedict is a head of state, so he fits the qualification, but Beck argued that he was first and foremost a religious leader and a head of state after that. He added that he didn’t know which other religious leaders would then need to be invited to address parliament in the interest of religious diversity if Benedict speaks. (Photo: Volker Beck making a speech about in Tibet in the Bundestag in Berlin, April 10, 2008/Hannibal Hanschke)
Germany’s Christian Social Union — the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats — said that Beck’s opposition was simply opposition grandstanding. Bavaria, a Catholic stronghold, is also where the pope was raised and served as an archbishop in Munich.