Pope Benedict XVI addressed Germany’s parliament in the historic Reichstag building Thursday, warning that politicians must not sacrifice ethics for power and evoking the Nazi excesses of his homeland as a lesson in history.

Amid scattered protests outside and a boycott by some lawmakers, Benedict began his first state visit to Germany in a bid to stem the tide of Catholics leaving the church while acknowledging the damage caused by the clerical sex abuse scandal.

The pope spoke for 20 minutes in the Reichstag, which was torched in 1933 in an incident used by Hitler to strengthen his grip on power.

“We Germans know from our own experience” what happens when power is corrupted, Benedict said, describing Nazis as a “highly organized band of robbers, capable of threatening the whole world and driving it to the edge of the abyss.”

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