German pilgrims gather pre-dawn for papal Mass

September 24, 2011 - 2:15 AM
APTOPIX Germany Pope Visit

Youths cast shadows as they carry a cross prior to a Vesper service celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in Etzelsbach, Germany, Friday, Sept. 23, 2011. Pope Benedict XVI is on a four-day official visit to his homeland Germany. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

ERFURT, Germany (AP) — German pilgrims are streaming into the square beneath Erfurt's medieval cathedral hoping in the pre-dawn hours to secure the best places to celebrate Mass with Pope Benedict XVI.

Following the Mass early Saturday, the pontiff will continue to the southwestern city of Freiburg, the final stop on his four-day state visit to Germany.

He is to meet there with representatives of Germany's church who are struggling to stem the loss of Roman Catholic faithful who feel Rome has grown out of touch with the people on thorny social issues such as the role of women and contraception and disapprove of the handling of the sex abuse scandal.

The Vatican said the pope met late Thursday with five victims of clerical abuse. He assured them the church is seeking "effective measures to protect children."