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Many Germans say this reconciliation should move forward.

“We now live in a society where Christians have chosen a religiously plural way of life,” said theology professor Martina Blasberg-Kuhnke at the University in Osnabruck.

“A great number of Catholics and Protestants would like to see the various branches of Christianity come closer and give those in interreligious marriages the possibility to practice together.”

The pope also met with five Germans abused by priests and said afterward he was “moved and shocked.”

That has been a sore spot for Germans since January 2010 when the first cases of sexual abuse by priests came to light. That led to thousands coming forward since then, in Germany and across Europe, and the pope publicly addressing the issue in Ireland and elsewhere.

In 2010, at least 181,000 Germans broke ties with the Catholic Church - the first time the number of people leaving the church exceeded the number of baptisms. Analysts say that trend is largely tied to the sex-abuse scandal and what is perceived as a cover-up initiated by those at the top of the church’s hierarchy.