Pope travels to Germany for four-day visit
Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday left Rome to travel to Germany for a four-day state visit that would take him to the cities of Berlin, Erfurt and Freiburg.
The Alitalia Airbus passenger jet carrying the pontiff left the Italian capital's Ciampino airport at 8.26 am (0626 GMT), DPA reported.
It was scheduled to arrive at Berlin's Tegel airport about two hours later.
After greetings shortly after his arrival by President Christian Wulff and Chancellor Angela Merkel, the pope later Thursday is set to address the German parliament, the Bundestag, and hold mass at the Olympic Stadium, where 70,000 worshippers are expected.
During the visit he is to meet with Protestant leaders and representatives of the Muslim and Jewish faiths. The pontiff is also expected to meet with the victims of sexual abuse by priests, though this has not been announced on the official schedule.
The visit marks the 84-year-old Benedict's 22nd trip abroad since his election as pope in 2005.
Benedict was scheduled to depart for Rome on Sunday evening.