Vatican spokesman rejects claim German bishops disrespected Pope

By Marta Jimenez

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Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., dismissed what he called “ridiculous” claims circulating online that the German bishops disrespected Pope Benedict during his recent visit to the country.

Fr. Lombardi said that a YouTube video showing the Pope and German president Christian Wulff has been misconstrued by bloggers and other members of the media.

Some have claimed that as the Pope moved down the line and extended his hand to introduce the members of his entourage, he was ignored by a number of German bishops.

But Fr. Lombardi told EWTN News that “the interpretation given to that video that the German bishops were disrespectful to the Pope is absolutely unfounded.”

In fact, he added, the video “obviously shows the moment in which the Pope was introducing his entourage—not the German bishops—to the German president at his residency.”

“The Pope was gesturing with his hand to each member of the entourage, who greeted the President,” Fr. Lombardi said. “The Pope does not expect the members of his entourage, who travel with him, to extend their hands to him on that occasion.”

He explained that Vatican officials shown in the video such as Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, Archbishop Jean-Claude Perriset, Bishop Josef Clemens—who was a long-time personal secretary to the Pope when he was Cardinal Ratzinger—and the pontifical masters of ceremony “don’t shake the Pope’s hand and they certainly have no intention of offending him.”

He went on to note that “among the few who did shake the Pope’s hand, although it was not necessary, were Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, and Archbishop
Rainer Woelki of Berlin, the only two German bishops seen in the video and who were included in the Pope’s entourage when he arrived in Berlin and who did not travel on the plane with the Pope.”

“I have nothing else to add,” Fr. Lombardi said. “An interpretation of the video that accuses the German bishops of disrespecting the Pope is too senseless to warrant further comment.”

The video can be seen at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygeG5WFzkV8

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