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Pope to visit native Germany in 2011

Pope Benedict XVI will make an official visit to his homeland next year, his third trip to Germany since his election in 2005, the president's office announced Friday.

Benedict will visit Berlin, along with the Erfurt diocese in eastern Germany and the Freiburg diocese in the country's southwest, President Christian Wulff's office said.

The visit will take place in the second half of 2011, likely September, but no exact dates were given.

Benedict has been to Germany twice since being elected in 2005 — going to Cologne and to his native Bavaria.

"The Holy Father's visit will be a significant moment in the life of our country and the life of our church," said Freiburg Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, the head of the German Bishops Conference. He said the visit "will strengthen the church in Germany and its service for people and society."

The Vatican also confirmed the visit.

It is the third foreign trip announced for the pope in 2011. He also is due to travel to Croatia in June and Madrid in August for World Youth Day.