Pope Benedict XVI is back home for his first state visit to Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Christian Wulff, and Cabinet members met the pontiff upon his arrival at a Berlin airport today, the first of his four-day visit, as howitzers fired and fighter jets flew overhead. He is also expected to be met by large Catholic crowds, the AP reports, but a less-welcome sight will be the also-large crowds expected to protest.
Many lawmakers are planning to boycott the pope’s speech to parliament later today, which they see as a violation of the separation of church and state. Ten thousand demonstrators are expected outside, protesting Vatican views on contraception, women’s roles, and homosexuality, as well as its handling of the priest sex abuse scandal. Some 20 protesters were on hand as the pope arrived, outside the airport. However, protesters will likely be dwarfed by the more than 250,000 registered to attend his three upcoming Masses. (Today's mass, the AFP notes, will be held in the Olympic Stadium—which was built during Germany's dark Nazi past and, in 1936, held the Games overseen by Adolf Hitler.)