Pope faces hostility from gay groups in Germany

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Pope Benedict’s first official visit to his homeland of Germany is expected to meet strong opposition today.

The Pontiff has made informal visits to Germany in the past but this is his first official visit.

Up to 20,000 people, including gay rights campaigners, feminists, atheists and church abuse survivors, are expected to gather for a protest in Berlin.

Meanwhile, it is estimated that around 100 German MPs will boycott his speech in parliament today.

Ulla Burchardt, an SPD politician from Dortmund, told Der Spiegel: “A head of state who disregards labour rights, women’s rights and the right to sexual self-determination should not be allowed to address the Bundestag.”

Arriving in Berlin this morning, the Pope said: “I am not here first and foremost… to follow particular political, or economic, aims but to meet the people and to speak to them about God.”

Berlin’s mayor Klaus Wowereit, who is openly gay, has upset gay rights protesters by saying he will personally welcome the Pope to the capital.

A record 181,000 Catholics left the church last year in protest at the child abuse scandal and teachings on issues like abortion and homosexuality.

A recent survey found that three-quarters of German Catholics want the church to become more liberal.