Germany’s gay community has been urged to show “tolerance” to the Pope as he begins a tour of his country of birth tomorrow.
Pope Benedict XVI, referred to as Papa Ratzi in Germany, begins a six day tour of his native Bavaria on Saturday where he will visit the state capital of Munich and the village of Marktl am Inn where he was born in 1927.
The pontiff is known for his highly conservative attitude to homosexuality and has repeatedly spoken out against gay marriage, but Munich mayor, Christian Ude, has pleaded with the gay community to show “tolerance for the moral positions of the Catholic Church.”
The mayor of Munich is a Social Democrat who has worked for gay rights and has served as patron for the Christopher-Street-Day parades, a gay pride event, every year since 1994.
That was also the year the last remnant of the infamous Paragraph 175 was finally removed from the German Penal Code. This was the special law, introduced with the unification of Germany in 1871, that punished gays with imprisonment.
Speaking at this year’s Christopher-Street-Day parade, Mr Ude asked the crowd to avoid a battle “that also involves the cross,” claiming there are more important issues to fight for such as gay marriage.
The crowd understood what the mayor was demanding of them, and why, and they showed this by applauding him, according to a report by the National Secular Society
His plea comes as German police investigate gay pride participants in Germany who constructed a float with an effigy of the Pope sporting a rainbow flag hairstyle, red AIDS ribbon and holding a condom.
They are being investigated under a law which forbids anyone from reviling religion and another one which prohibits anyone from insulting representatives of a foreign state.
The visit is seen as a major spectacle for Germany’s religious community, the Vatican’s double role as church and state is seen as invaluable for tomorrow’s papal visit.
As a “state visit” Benedict’s bills will be footed by the German taxpayer. Yet because it is also a “pilgrimage,” his trip is planned as a liturgical spectacle. There is even an online souvenir shop where you can purchase papal-visit T-shirts, baseball caps and bottles for holy water.
Last year Benedict’s election was announced in the biggest German tabloid with the headline: “WE ARE POPE!” Politicians talked about what an honour it was for Germany.
In Rome crowds of Germans shouted in unison, “Benedict, sent from God!” (In German, the chant rhymes: “Benedikt, Gott geschickt!”.)
In opposition to the Pope, Gay campaigner Peter Tatchell appeared on the recent EuroPride march with a picture of him dressed as a drag queen with a sign saying “Pope Betty Benedict XVI, Queen of Homophobia.”
Terry Sanderson from the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association told PinkNews.co.uk: “It seems incredible that the gay community in Germany has to sit quiet and respectful while this horrible little man makes increasingly defamatory comments about them.
“I hope that there is a general protest – not just a gay one – against the Pope. Instead, we’ll probably just get the usual sycophantic media coverage showing large crowds of worshippers and portraying anyone who disagrees and protests as an extremist.
“It’s time those who think the Vatican’s policies are downright evil ought to stand up and be counted.”
Additional reporting Muriel Fraser, National Secular Society