Munich, Germany, Sep 9, 2006 (CNA) -
Pope Benedict XVI offered words of thanks and encouragement today, as he began his trip through the land of his birth. The Pontiff was greeted, upon his arrival in Munich, by German President Horst Köhler, Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Bavarian Minister-President Edmund Stoiber, as well as various members of the German Catholic hierarchy and numerous other officials.
Descending from his Alitalia jet to the cheers of thousands gathered in a small greeting area setup on the tarmac, the Pope strode past German military guards, accompanied by President Köhler. The Pontiff stood at attention as he was granted the full military welcome of a visiting head of state, his white cassock blowing about in the wind.
The Pope shook hands and exchanged quick words with the men, women, and children lining his path as he and the president worked their way to a temporary stage flanked by German, Bavarian, and European Union flags, whipping in the wind.
The German president welcomed the Pope, speaking glowingly of the first years of his Pontificate. Köhler, who is Protestant, recalled the “moving experience” of last year’s World Youth Day, held in Cologne. The president remarked at the “powerful presence” of the Catholic Church in Germany and spoke hopefully of the ongoing process of ecumenical dialogue.
Following Köhler’s words of welcome, the Pope reflected briefly on the purpose of his trip. “Conscious of how much I have received,” Benedict said, “I have come here above all to express my deep gratitude towards all those who helped shape me as a person.”
But, the Pope continued, “I also come here as the Successor of the Apostle Peter, to reaffirm and strengthen the deep bonds linking the See of Rome and the Church in our native land.”
Benedict reminded everyone of the tremendous history of the Catholic faith in Germany and particularly in Bavaria. A history, he said, which has been constantly nourished by firm adherence to Christian values.
He also noted that the faith history of the country “is witnessed to by famous monuments, majestic cathedrals, statues and paintings of great artistic value, literary works, cultural initiatives and above all, the many individual and community events which reflect the Christian beliefs of successive generations in this Land which is so dear to me.”
The Pontiff insisted that although society has changed, it is important to continue passing on the faith to younger generations.
“I think we are all united in the hope that new generations will remain faithful to the spiritual patrimony which has withstood all the crises of history. My visit to the land of my birth is meant to be an encouragement in this regard: Bavaria is a part of Germany; sharing in the ups and downs of Germany’s history, and has good reason to be proud of the traditions inherited from the past. My hope is that all my compatriots in Bavaria and throughout Germany will play an active part in the transmission of the fundamental values of the Christian faith to the citizens of tomorrow.”
The Pope concluded his remarks expressing his desire to someday visit other parts of Germany and thanking all those who have worked to prepare for his visit. He offered a greeting to all Germans, noting that he was not only thinking of Catholics, but Lutherans, Orthodox Christians, and members of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities as well as “all people of good will.”
“May the Lord bless the efforts of all those concerned to build a future of true well-being for the good of the whole nation,” the Pope said, entrusting his intentions to the Blessed Virgin Mary through a traditional Bavarian prayer. “Preserve, O Virgin and Patroness, your Bavarian people, their goods, their government, their land and their religion!”
The Pope then departed for downtown Munich, where he will offer a special prayer at the Marian statue in the city’s central square.
Munich, Germany, Sep 9, 2006 (CNA) - The
Column of Mary in Munich, with the possible exception of the Marian Shrine of
Altötting, is the most popular symbol of Marian devotion in
Bavaria. Pope Benedict XVI chose this monument, which represents the keeping of a promise for a miracle which saved the city from certain destruction, as the place of his first public act in his native land.
The prayer recited by the Pope at the Column of Maria in Marienplatz, shortly after his arrival, has a special symbolic value as the statue of the Virgin there depicts the country’s patroness.
During World War I, King Ludwig III and his wife Maria Theresa asked Pope Benedict XV to the declare the Virgin Mary Official Patroness of Bavaria. On April 26, 1916, the Pope changed the Kingdom of Bavaria to the “Kingdom of Mary” and established a proper feast in honor of the Patroness. In 1970 the Bishops’ Conference of Germany set May 1 as the feast day.
“Miracle of Munich”
The Column of Mary was erected in 1638 in the center of Munich Square. The construction of the marble column upon which sits a statue of the Virgin Mary was the result of a promise made by Prince Maximilian I. During the 30-years war, in 1632, the Prince promised to erect the column if Munich and Langsdorf were spared from destruction by the Swedish army. When his prayer was answered, the Prince considered it a true miracle.
Immediately after it was blessed in 1683, the Column became the focal point for the Marian devotion of Catholics in Bavaria, who honored the Mother of God with litanies and the recitation of the rosary. Throughout the centuries in times of danger or need, the Catholics of Bavaria have gathered at the foot of the Column.
There in 1782 they received the blessing of Pope Pius IV. It was there also that Maximilian Joseph was crowned the first King of Bavaria. In 1980 John Paul II stopped to pray there during his visit to Germany. Likewise, when then Cardinal Ratzinger was called to serve in Rome in 1982 as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he went to the Column and said goodbye to his beloved archdiocese.
Symbol of Hope
During the heavy bombardments of Munich during World War II, the statue was taken down and put in a safe place. After the war ended in 1945, it was placed on the Column again amidst a completely destroyed city, becoming a symbol of hope and peace. The four corners at the base of column are decorated with four bronze symbols: a lion representing war, a basilisk representing disease, a dragon representing hunger, and a serpent representing non-believers. These four plagues, according to popular belief, were overcome thanks to the intercession of the Mother of God.
The Column is also considered the geographical center of Bavaria and is the starting point for calculating distance on all the highways and roads that leave Munich.
Munich, Germany, Sep 9, 2006 (CNA) -
Following a brief visit to Munich’s Georgianum Seminary, Pope Benedict arrived at the city’s central square to the cheers of countless Bavarians. The Pope greeted the citizens of Munich, the city where he once served as archbishop, and assured them that he remains with them, becoming for them “a beast of burden.”
On a sunny, but windy Munich afternoon the Popemobile wound its way through the city’s streets, lined all the way with cheering faithful waving Vatican and Bavarian flags and chanting “Benedetto! Benedetto!”
The German Pontiff, dressed in his white cassock, scarlet mozzetta, and Pontifical stole, also bore an enormous smile, waving and extending his hands outward in an open embrace to those gathered.
Following a greeting from Edmund Stoiber, President-Minster of Bavaria, and Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, who succeeded Benedict as Archbishop of Munich and Freising, the Pontiff addressed the crowd, emphasizing the significance Munich’s “Mariensäule” (Column of Mary) has played in his life.
“It is very moving for me to stand once more in this beautiful square at the foot of the Mariensäule – in a place which already witnessed two other decisive turning-points in my life,” the Pope declared.
“Here, almost thirty years ago, the faithful welcomed me with joy as their new Archbishop: I then began my ministry with a prayer to the Mother of God. Here too, five years later, after being called to Rome by the Pope, I bade farewell to my Diocese and once more addressed a prayer to the Patrona Bavariae, entrusting ‘my’ city and homeland to her protection.”
“Today I am here again – this time as the Successor of Saint Peter.”
The Pope greeted Stoiber, Wetter, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as the other leaders and officials present. He also offered particular welcome to the many priests of the archdiocese, gathered in the square.
The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger then turned to the crowds of faithful present. “I greet all of you with great love, my dear compatriots and friends, who have gathered in this square to demonstrate your affection! I thank you for your warm welcome, and I think in particular of all those who have worked to prepare for this meeting and the whole of my journey.”
The Pope then assured the people, who were once part of his archdiocesan flock, that he remains with them now that he is Shepherd of the Universal Church.
Benedict explained the important role that Saint Corbinian, the historic bishop of the region has played in his life. “From my childhood, I was very much taken with the story that a bear had attacked and killed the horse which the saint was riding on a journey to Rome,” the Pope recounted. “According to the legend, the saint punished the bear by putting on his back the load that the horse had been carrying. So the bear had to carry this load across the Alps all the way to Rome, and only there did the saint set him free.”
“In 1977, when I had to face the difficult choice whether or not to accept my appointment as Archbishop of Munich and Freising, knowing that it would take me away from my beloved work at the university, this bear with its heavy burden reminded me of Saint Augustine’s interpretation of verses 22 and 23 of Psalm 73.”
Augustine, he said, spoke of the Psalms words, “I was foolish and did not understand, standing before you like a dumb animal. Nevertheless I am continually with you.”
He, like Augustine, saw in the word, “‘animal’ a reference to the beasts of burden used by farmers to work the land,” and the burden of the Episcopal ministry.
Benedict recalled how he, like Augustine, left a life of scholarship to take on the burden of the episcopacy, but found enlightenment and consolation in the image of the “beast of burden…for just as the beast of burden is closest to the farmer and, under his direction, carries out the burdensome work entrusted to him, so the Bishop is very close to God, because he carries out an important service for his Kingdom.”
“With these words of the Bishop of Hippo in mind, I have found in Saint Corbinian’s bear a constant encouragement to carry out my ministry with confidence and joy – thirty years ago, and again now in my new task – and to say my daily ‘yes’ to God”
“I have become for you a beast of burden, but as such ‘I am always with you’ (Ps 73:23).”
Benedict noted that unlike St. Corbinian’s bear (which is represented in his Pontifical coat of arms) he was not set free in Rome, but kept in service. “And so,” he said, “I find myself once more at the foot of the Mariensäule, imploring the intercession and blessing of the Mother of God, this time not only for the city of Munich and for Bavaria, but for the universal Church and for all people of good will.”
Following a hymn by the Cathedral Choir of Munich, the Holy Father offered the following prayer to Mary:
Holy Mother of the Lord!
Our ancestors, at a time of trouble, set up your statue here, in the very heart of Munich, and entrusted the city and country to your care. They wanted to meet you again and again along the paths of their daily life, and to learn from you the right way to live, to find God and to live in harmony. They gave you a crown and a scepter, which at that time were symbols of dominion over the country, because they knew that power and dominion would then be in good hands - in the hands of a Mother.
Your Son, just before his farewell to his disciples, said to them: "Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all" (Mk 10:43-44). At the decisive hour in your own life, you said: "Here I am, the servant of the Lord" (Lk 1:38). You lived your whole life as service. And you continue to do so throughout history. At Cana, you silently and discreetly interceded for the spouses, and so you continue to do. You take upon yourself people’s needs and concerns, and you bring them before the Lord, before your Son. Your power is goodness. Your power is service.
Teach us - great and small alike - to carry out our responsibilities in the same way. Help us to find the strength to offer reconciliation and forgiveness. Help us to become patient and humble, but also free and courageous, just as you were at the hour of the Cross. In your arms you hold Jesus, the Child who blesses, the Child who is also the Lord of the world. By holding the Child who blesses, you have yourself become a blessing. Bless us, this city and this country! Show us Jesus, the blessed fruit of your womb! Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen!
The Pontiff then sang along with Bavarian hymns and returned to his Popemobile, the glowing smile never leaving his face.
This evening the Pope will visit with various federal and regional officials at the Royal Palace of Munich. The Pontiff will spend the night at the Archbishop’s residence and rest for Sunday’s events, which will include a large public Mass and Vespers at the Cathedral of Munich.
Denver, Colo., Sep 9, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic News Agency (CNA) is extending a special invitation to you, our readers, to follow Pope Benedict XVI on each step of his momentous voyage to Bavaria. Stay tuned for continued stories and check our website for full coverage of the trip – including a special Flash presentation – starting today and running through Thursday, September 14th.
CNA’s coverage is being boosted by working agreements with Europa Press and German news channel ZDF, which was one of the three secular press sources granted an exclusive interview with the Pontiff last month.
The Pope, who has described the trip as having tremendous personal importance, will make stops at locations significant to his life in Munich, Altötting, Marktl am Inn, Regensburg, and Freising.
"I want to see again the places where I grew up, the people who touched and shaped my life,” the Pope said in a recent interview, “I want to thank these people."
Meet the friends and acquaintances of Benedict, from his childhood to his days as a young priest and professor, from his time as Archbishop of Munich to his years as a Vatican Cardinal coming home for vacations. Learn about the many preparations locals have made in anticipation of the historic visit. Read the Pope’s words as he preaches to his countrymen and meets with priests, seminarians, and university colleagues.
Follow our continuing coverage at www.catholicnewsagency.com.