World

President praises Germans' willingness to take in refugees as anti-Islam rallies cause concern

  • In this Monday Dec. 22, 2014 picture,  German President Joachim Gauck poses after the recording of the traditional Christmas message at Bellevue Palace in Berlin.  With the speech, the head of state addresses the citizens during the Christmas celebrations. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, pool)

    In this Monday Dec. 22, 2014 picture, German President Joachim Gauck poses after the recording of the traditional Christmas message at Bellevue Palace in Berlin. With the speech, the head of state addresses the citizens during the Christmas celebrations. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, pool)  (The Associated Press)

  • Someone displays a slogan on a wall of the Semper Opera House (Semperoper) during a rally called 'Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West' (PEGIDA) in Dresden, Germany, Monday, Dec. 22, 2014. For the past ten weeks, activists protesting Germany’s immigration policy and the spread of Islam in the West have been marching each Monday. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

    Someone displays a slogan on a wall of the Semper Opera House (Semperoper) during a rally called 'Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West' (PEGIDA) in Dresden, Germany, Monday, Dec. 22, 2014. For the past ten weeks, activists protesting Germany’s immigration policy and the spread of Islam in the West have been marching each Monday. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)  (The Associated Press)

  • Participants of a rally called 'Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West' (PEGIDA) hold German flags and lights during a demonstration entitled ‘Christmas With Pegida’ between the bronze equestrian statue of King John of Saxony, left, and the Dresden Cathedral, or the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, in Dresden, eastern Germany, Monday, Dec. 22, 2014. For the past ten weeks, activists protesting Germany’s immigration policy and the spread of Islam in the West have been marching each Monday. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

    Participants of a rally called 'Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West' (PEGIDA) hold German flags and lights during a demonstration entitled ‘Christmas With Pegida’ between the bronze equestrian statue of King John of Saxony, left, and the Dresden Cathedral, or the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, in Dresden, eastern Germany, Monday, Dec. 22, 2014. For the past ten weeks, activists protesting Germany’s immigration policy and the spread of Islam in the West have been marching each Monday. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)  (The Associated Press)

Germany's president is praising his compatriots' willingness to take in refugees — a message that comes as growing anti-Islam demonstrations in an eastern city have worried many.

President Joachim Gauck didn't mention directly the group that has organized the rallies in Dresden, Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West, or PEGIDA, in his Christmas message released Wednesday. But he said it is encouraging that "the vast majority of us do not share the views of those who want to seal Germany off."

PEGIDA'S organizers insist they are protesting only against extremism and not against immigrants or Islam itself, but the demonstrations have received support from far-right groups, prompting concerns that anti-foreigner sentiment might be rising. German politicians have been divided over how to respond.