(JTA) — Pope Benedict XVI made a rare reference to his life as a teenage seminarian in Hitler’s Germany.
He made his remarks May 28 during a meeting with members of a German Catholic fellowship from Regensberg on the anniversary of his own entry into that group 70 years ago, when he was 14.
During the meeting, according to the official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the pope departed from his prepared text and spoke off the cuff about his personal experiences at "a dark time marked by war."
Hitler already had subjugated Poland, Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and France, and went on to occupy Yugoslavia and Greece, he said. Soon after the pope joined the Regensberg group, the war on the Russian front began and the seminary closed down.
"It seemed that Europe was in the hands of this power that put the future of Christianity in doubt," the pope said.