Benedict XVI visits German place of pilgrimage

11th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

11 September 2006, ALTOETTING, GERMANY - Pope Benedict XVI counselled Catholics Monday to learn from the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, and prayed at the German-speaking world's main shrine to the saint. After celebrating mass on the town square of Altoetting, alongside a replica of the blackened, ancient statue of Mary kept in a nearby chapel, he went on a walkabout, kissing babies and shaking hands in the crowd while dark-suited bodyguards hovered tensely around him. "From Mary we learn graciousnes

11 September 2006

ALTOETTING, GERMANY - Pope Benedict XVI counselled Catholics Monday to learn from the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, and prayed at the German-speaking world's main shrine to the saint.

After celebrating mass on the town square of Altoetting, alongside a replica of the blackened, ancient statue of Mary kept in a nearby chapel, he went on a walkabout, kissing babies and shaking hands in the crowd while dark-suited bodyguards hovered tensely around him.

"From Mary we learn graciousness and readiness to help, but we also learn humility and generosity in accepting God's will, in the confident conviction that whatever he says in response will be best for us," Benedict said in a sermon.

A laywoman read out a prayer for "peace in the world" five years after the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in the United States, but the pope did not refer to the anniversary.

Benedict is visiting Bavaria, the region of Germany where he was born and later became archbishop, until Thursday.

An estimated 60,000 Catholics gathered in bright sunshine in Altoetting, where for centuries German pilgrims have sought miracles from Mary, and joined in a polyphonic chant of "Be-ne-dett-o," the cry adopted by the pope's fans.

Benedict, 79, had earlier made a low-level sightseeing helicopter flight over the fields, woods and villages of his native Bavaria. He has indicated that on account of his age, the trip may be the last time he sees well-loved places from his childhood and youth.

The visit marked a change of pace from Sunday, where sermons by the theologian pope, first to adults, then to children, were the focus. Altoetting is a place of rural piety rather than learning, where Catholics have prayed for miracles for centuries.

In pious Catholic tradition, pilgrims ask Mary to intercede with God and help them in need, or give thanks for prayers fulfilled. That devotion is closely associated with conservative Catholics, and commentators said the pope was reaching out to them. His predecessor, John Paul II, visited Altoetting in 1980.

Benedict was to spend most of the day in the town, before a brief visit to his birthplace, Marktl-am-Inn. He was to stay the night in Regensburg, the Bavarian city that the German pope describes as home.

DPA

Subject: German news

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