Pope Benedict XVI’s Troubles At Home

The Pope was met with protests as he began a four-day trip in his native Germany. But his challenges run even deeper in a country that was protective of their native son in the early days of his papacy, but now sees him as the ultimate symbol of rigid tra

Pope Benedict XVI was greeted by Merkel and Wulff in Berlin on Thursday.
Pope Benedict XVI was greeted by Merkel and Wulff in Berlin on Thursday.
Matthias Drobinski

BERLIN - Welcome home, Holy Father. Welcome back to your native Germany, where up to 300,000 people in Berlin, Erfurt, Etzelsbach and Freiburg will pray and sing with you. But welcome also to a country where dozens of Bundestag deputies announced a boycott of your speech before the German parliament -- the first major stop on the visit Thursday -- and more than 10,000 are expected to demonstrate over the next four days against the kind of Catholicism you represent, which they consider the embodiment of all that is rigid and doctrinaire about religion.

On the first day of his homecoming, Benedict XVI met Germany's Catholic-born president, who, as a divorced and remarried man, cannot under Church rules partake in communion. His itinerary also includes a meeting with a Protestant Chancellor, married for a second time, and a Catholic mayor who is openly gay. Klaus Wowereit, Berlin's gay mayor, has expressed a certain sympathy with opponents of the Pope, and Christian Wulff, Germany's president, says he's hoping the Pope will deliver a "liberating message" for the millions of divorced Catholics like himself who have remarried.

So welcome, Pope Benedict, to Germany -- a difficult homeland.

The person of Joseph Ratzinger

The Pope is making a lot of effort on this trip to the country of his birth, where the Catholic Church has lost so much respect and credibility. The 84-year-old will be making 17 speeches before he returns to Rome on Sunday. But Germany will remain a country that is tough on the Church, because the mutual disconnect is too deeply entrenched -- and this disconnect has also attached itself disproportionately to the person of Joseph Ratzinger

From Rome's point of view, the Catholic Church in Germany has something unreliable, truculent even, about it. Haven't Catholics there been infected more strongly than elsewhere with the spirit of the Reformation? Was there not, in the 19th century, a strong national church movement reacting against Rome's anti-modernism and seeking to reconcile belief with enlightenment? Aren't those Catholic associations in Germany basically children of the German Revolutions of 1848? And is the tight state-church bond that exists in Germany not an attempt to monopolize religion?

After trips to the Vatican, German bishops talk about how difficult it is to explain that the Church in Germany continues to perceive itself as bound to the Pope, that independent theology at state universities is not synonymous with a loss of faith, or that critical youth organizations can also be a blessing for the Church. But talk to people in the Vatican, and they find the Germans irritating: if an Italian doesn't agree with the teachings of the Church he would handle it differently. The Germans on the other hand always have to instigate a debate about basic principles.

Joseph Ratzinger is both a child and a critic of German Catholicism. His was a Catholic childhood of unquestioning faith, but later as a high-profile university professor he was shaken by the student revolts that took place in 1968. He criticized the Church, pointing out that some of its theologians often autocratically strayed from church teaching, or that the Church was rich materially, but poor in faith. The future of the Church, he believed, did not lie in adjusting to the modern day, but in opposing relativism -- both in regard to the truth of faith, and the social order as God willed it.

So in Germany, passionate debate about whether the Catholic Church should approach or distance itself from the zeitgeist became inexorably linked to the figure of Joseph Ratzinger, who had risen to become the Vatican Cardinal in charge of doctrinal matters. It was he who with atypical sharpness explained that the churches of the Reformation were not really churches in "the real sense." It was due to his stubbornness that Germany's Catholic Church had to withdraw from the state's pregnancy counseling system. For a brief period of jubilation after his election as Pope in 2005 these differences and wounds were swept under the carpet, even after Benedict, in his 2006 lecture at the University of Regensburg, not only managed to insult Muslims but to portray the period of history from the Church Fathers through the Reformation to Immanuel Kant as one of decline.

Now the pendulum is swinging in the other direction. After the anger at Benedict XVI's reinstatement of bishops (including a Holocaust denier) belonging to the ultra-conservative Society of Saint Pius X in 2009, and after so many cases of sexual violence have emerged – the atmosphere has gone from uncritical in 2006 to the sometimes overly critical in 2011. Most non-Catholics in Germany view this visit with more or less benign disinterest. Catholics are hoping for some words of encouragement. "Just so he doesn't goof up," says one of the people helping to get the stadium ready. The hope is that he doesn't say yet another thing that is misunderstood, that discredits the whole trip and his good intentions. Just so he doesn't dig himself an even deeper hole in his own homeland.

Read the original article in German

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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