FREIBURG, Germany — Pope Benedict XVI issued a strong call for spiritual renewal among Germans, as he wrapped up a visit to his homeland, where he addressed parliament and met with victims of clerical abuse.
The pope drew hundreds of thousands of German faithful to services held on stops during his trip, including a final Mass early Sunday that attracted about 100,000 people to an airfield beside Freiburg's airport.
In his parting words before leaving for Rome late Sunday, Benedict wished Germans "strength and confidence" in their faith, underlining a message repeated at each stop of his four-day trip.
From Berlin to Erfurt and, finally Freiburg, Benedict stressed the importance of faith, whether as the basis for a thriving democracy or as a force that helped to resist communism in the former East Germany. He stressed the need for Roman Catholics to show unity with Rome, which he said has no intention of bowing to groups demanding changes in the church's teaching.
"The church in Germany will continue to be a blessing for the entire Catholic world if she remains faithfully united with the successors of St. Peter and the Apostles," Benedict said in his homily.
Germany's church saw 181,000 quit the congregation after last year's clerical abuse scandal in Germany.
Benedict sought to address the issue, holding a closed-door meeting with five victims of clerical abuse Friday, and alluding to the scandal in his speech to Catholics Sunday afternoon.
The pope's call in his Sunday homily for a perpetual spiritual renewal, meanwhile, was well received.
"He made it clear that the church must be lively, that it's not about the organization but about what one has in his heart," said pilgrim Julia Eibeck from Stuttgart.
Some, however, said the pope failed to discuss the church's own failings.
"The pope spoke about humility and responsibility. But he failed to mention the church's own responsibility regarding the issue of sexual abuse cases," said Stefan Haak, 46, who brought his two children to attend the Mass.