Working together to care for creation
Following her private audience with Pope Francis on Wednesday, the Federal Chancellor issued a statement in which she said she was delighted to return to the Campo Santo Teutonico, describing it as “symbolising the centuries-old ties between Germany and the Holy See.”
The Campo Santo Teutonico refers to the “German Cemetery” and its associated buildings, which are located immediately adjacent to St Peter’s Basilica. Although the cemetery is the only one within the walls of Vatican City, it is in Italian – rather than Vatican – territory. The history of the “Campo Santo” goes back to the time of Charlemagne. It is considered the key historic symbol of the presence in Rome of Catholics from the states that succeeded the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.
Child abuse: “the truth must be brought to light”
Following her visit to the Anthropological Institute of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, which is handling cases of the sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church, Merkel stated that “by coming here, I wanted to underline our belief that the truth must come to light and that the issue of child abuse must be dealt with.”
The Federal Chancellor explained that the issue had figured in her talks with Pope Francis and Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin in the Apostolic Palace, as “there is a need for Christians and believers to trust in their church.”
“A great delight” to meet the Pope
The Federal Chancellor described meeting Pope Francis in a private audience as “a great honour and delight,” adding that her talks with the Holy Father had covered issues such as the situation of the Church and current political challenges.
Merkel – a regular guest at the Vatican This was the Federal Chancellor’s fifth private audience with Pope Francis. She had previously been received by the Argentine head of the Catholic Church in 2013, 2015 and twice in 2017. In 2013, Merkel had also taken part in the inauguration of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a Jesuit, as pope. She had also been received by Pope Francis’ predecessor, the German Pope Benedict XVI, in 2006.
Climate change demands “great efforts from everybody”
Merkel mentioned the European Union and the Pope’s most recent visit to Eastern Europe, but also drew attention to the upcoming UN COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow and the implementation of the Paris Agreement. She stressed that “for me, it is very, very significant and encouraging that the Catholic Church is also prioritising ‘care for creation’, and that the Holy Father is personally involved in the work.”
It is so important, she added, “because humanity’s response to climate change means making a radical change to how we live our lives in all areas,” and it would take “a great deal of persuasion and significant efforts that will affect every part of our lives.”
Talks with Prime Minister Draghi
The Federal Chancellor held talks with other dignitaries in Rome, including the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi. In a press conference, Merkel praised the cooperation agreement that had been reached in only a few months of collaboration between the two heads of government.
The meeting, which was held during a working lunch, covered the roles of the two countries in the EU, European security policy – particularly as regards Libya – and global climate protection. The Federal Chancellor spoke of her desire, now and in future, for Europe to “have the strongest possible representatives for each of its member states, and that certainly applies to Italy as well.”
“Only by searching for peace will you find peace”
The Federal Chancellor’s visit concluded with a closing event for the peace conference held at the Sant’Egidio community in Rome. At the event which took place not far from the Roman Colosseum, the Federal Chancellor, Pope Francis and the founder of Sant’Edigio, Andrea Riccardi, addressed those present.
Merkel emphasised the impression that Sant’Egidio’s message of peace had made on her, describing it as “a message that is dedicated to our fellow beings, which sharpens our awareness of what binds us together.” The Federal Chancellor added that too many conflicts, crises and wars “cause us sometimes to doubt humanity’s ability to be humane.” However, despair or resignation were not a solution in her eyes. “Only by searching for peace will you find peace, no matter how long and arduous that search may be.”