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Catholic leaders had warned ahead of Benedict’s visit that there was no quick solution, but they hoped the pontiff could help heal wounds left by the scandal.

“I think it’s certainly an important issue, but it’s not the most important thing about a pope’s visit,” Monika Graner, a pilgrim from Wuerzburg, said of the sex abuse scandal.

Following the Mass in Erfurt, the pontiff traveled to the southwestern city of Freiburg, the final stop on this visit.

About 25,000 people who lined the pope’s route cheered and waved as he drove from the airport to visit the downtown cathedral.

Protests have also accompanied Benedict’s German tour, although numbers have been smaller than expected. Some 9,000 people turned out in Berlin to denounce the Vatican views on homosexuality, contraception and other issues.

The 84-year-old pope has seemed tired at times, but his spokesman Lombardi said “he’s very well,” despite the heavy schedule.

“It is wonderful how he experiences all moments of this trip really intensively,” Lombardi said.


David Rising in Berlin and Juergen Baetz in Freiburg contributed to this report.