Thursday, August 17, 2006

Pope can only take so many long trips. Benedict finds travels can be tiring, but he still would like to visit the Holy Land 'in a time of peace'

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI says he does not feel strong enough to take many long trips, but that he would like to travel to a peaceful Holy Land.

In a wide-ranging interview aired Aug. 13 on German television, the pontiff spoke of Europe's role in Christianity and secularization in the Western world.

The pontiff also offered some insight into his own personality and ministry, saying being pope is "really tiring" and that it is important to "see the funny side of life."

"I have to say that I've never felt strong enough to plan many long trips," the pontiff said in the 35-minute interview. "But where such a trip allows me to communicate a message or where, shall I say, it's in response to a sincere request, I'd like to go."

The 79-year-old pope has made three foreign trips since assuming the papacy in April 2005. So far, all have been within Europe, with a pilgrimage to his native Bavaria, Germany, scheduled in September.

But the pope said he is planning to travel to Brazil to take part in the closing sessions of the Fifth Latin American Bishops' Conference, which takes place May 13-31, 2007.

"Then I'd like to visit the Holy Land, and I hope to visit it in a time of peace," said the pontiff, who had repeatedly appealed for a cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah militias during fighting in southern Lebanon over the past several weeks.

The pope said he has also promised to travel to Austria, and he has scheduled a trip in November to Turkey.

"In the Western world today we are experiencing a wave of new and drastic enlightenment or secularization," Benedict said. "Humanity has rebuilt the world by itself, and finding God inside this world has become more difficult."

However, the pope said the West is also influenced by other cultures in which the religious element is very strong.

"We see how in young people there's the search for something 'more,'" Benedict said. "We see how the religious phenomenon is returning, as they say."
Aug. 17, 2006

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