(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday met with Bodo Ramelow, the Minister-President of the German state of Thüringen.
Ramelow is the first politician from the Left Party – which is descended from East Germany’s Communist party – to govern a German state.
After the meeting, Ramelow told Vatican Radio’s German Programme he invited the Holy Father to visit Thüringen to mark the anniversary of the Reformation, although he admitted it was unlikely to happen, given the Pope’s schedule.
“I explained to him that we have created a new programme called Achawa, which is the Hebrew word for brotherhood,” said Ramelow, a practicing Protestant. “This has brought together Catholics, Protestants, and many representatives of civil society… We think about the issues of the Reformation as a common theme, and encourage people to think about faith.”
The two men also spoke about the German response to the current refugee crisis. Ramelow said the first step was “to invite the people to have courage, not fear.”
"We want to talk to them about the fears they have,” he added. “But we do not want to give room to those who would stoke those fears, and certainly we cannot provide a stage to the preachers of hate."
Ramelow told Vatican Radio he was pleased with his meeting with the Pope, adding “this key term ‘mercy,’ the central element of this pontificate, is truly lived by [Pope Francis]”
During the meeting, Ramelow gave the Pope a replica of a 1534 Bible and a bronze statue of St. Elizabeth of Hungary.