Altotting, Germany, Sep 11, 2006 (CNA) -
The Marian Shrine of Altötting, one of Bavaria’s most famous pilgrimage sites, was an appropriate place for the second Mass celebrated by the Pope Benedict XVI on his trip home. Mary, the Mother of God and “woman of prayer,” would be the subject of the New Testament readings as well as the homily of the Holy Father.
The Shrine, which was created in 680 AD, is most famous now for the “Black” Madonna, a statue last visited by Pope Benedict with his brother, Fr. Georg Ratzinger, on a private pilgrimage before his Pontifical election in 2005. Since the addition of the statue sometime around 1330, soot from thousands of candles burned before the image has stained her head a dark color earning the sculpture the “black” moniker.
The very small town of Altötting, located a mere 100 km from Munich, swelled with well over 35,000 Catholics wishing to have the rare opportunity of attending a mass celebrated by the Bishop of Rome. Though the venue allowed for much smaller crowds than the initial Munich Mass, the streets of the town were filled to capacity on a beautiful sunny day.
Pope Benedict began the celebration after working his way through a throng of admirers on a sunny Monday morning. His smile could not be contained as he received an official greeting from, Bishop Wilhelm Schraml, of Passau welcoming the Holy Father “home.”
Benedict began his homily by noting, “In today’s First Reading, Responsorial Psalm and Gospel, three times and in three different ways, we see Mary, the Mother of the Lord, as a woman of prayer.”
Standing behind the crimson marble altar the Holy Father addressed the gathered Catholics about the significance of the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. In the upper room “Mary leads the nascent Church in prayer; she is, as it were in person, the Church at prayer,” the Pontiff instructed. “And thus, along with the great community of the saints and at their centre, she stands even today before God interceding for us.”
Benedict continued on, delving deep into the meaning surrounding the Gospel’s story of the wedding at Cana. The Holy Father commented that “Mary does not really ask something of Jesus: she simply says to him: "They have no wine" (Jn 2:3).” In this way, “Mary leaves everything to the Lord’s judgment.”
“This is how she teaches us to pray: not by seeking to affirm our own will and our own desires before God, but by letting him decide what he wants to do,” the Pope said.
The Pope reminded the congregation of a similar encounter with Mary’s willingness to turn over her will at the Annunciation. “At Nazareth she gave over her will, immersing it in the will of God.”
Pope Benedict also explained that Jesus does not dismiss his mother when he states, “My hour has not yet come" (Jn 2:4). Instead, the Holy Father noted, He is indicating that his, “definitive ‘hour’ will be his return at the end of time.”
“And so,” the Holy Father stated, “we want to let ourselves be guided by Mary, by the Mother of Graces of Altötting, by the Mother of all the faithful, towards the "hour" of Jesus.”
The Holy Father concluded his Homily by again encouraging the congregation to allow Mary to lead them into a deeper and more sacrificial prayer life. As the Pope was seated, the faithful erupted in spontaneous applause.
During the Mass, the Pope made a special mention of September 11 2001. "Five years on from the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center in New York," he said, "we pray for peace in the world."
At the conclusion of the Mass the Pope processed, along with the Blessed Sacrament and the Statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to a newly constructed Adoration Chapel. There the Pontiff blessed the new chapel and installed the Eucharist for perpetual adoration.
Later in the day Pope Benedict will be conducting Marian Vespers with the religious and seminarians of Bavaria at the Basilica of St Anne.
Altotting, Germany, Sep 11, 2006 (CNA) - Prior to leaving the town of Altötting for his birthplace of Marktl am Inn, Pope Benedict XVI prayed Vespers with the seminarians, priests, and religious of Bavaria and those who support their vocations. The Pontiff led the evening prayer service from the Basilica of Saint Anne.
Following the initial prayers of the service, and the Psalms beautifully intoned by a choir, the Pope reflected on the Vocation to the priesthood and religious life.
“We have gathered here to consider our vocation to serve Jesus Christ…under the watchful gaze of Saint Anne, in whose home the greatest vocation in the history of salvation developed.” The Pope noted that although none are granted the grace of receiving their vocation from an angel, as Mary did, “the Lord has a plan for each of us.”
The Pope recalled the line from Matthew’s Gospel, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest" (Mt 9:37-38). He encouraged those present and prayed for more to answer the call to labor in the field of the Lord.
“The Lord,” he said, “is also knocking on the doors of our own heart. Lord do you want me? Is it not perhaps too big for me? Am I too small for this? ‘Do not be afraid’, the Angel said to Mary. ‘Do not fear: I have called you by name,’ God says through the Prophet Isaiah (43:1) to us - to each of us.”
And, “if we say ‘yes’ to the Lord’s call,” the Pope told the seminarians, priests, and religious, no matter where we go or what we do, we should remain with the Lord.
“Only one who is ‘with him’ comes to know him and can truly proclaim him.”
“We know this from experience,” Benedict continued, “whenever priests, because of their many duties, allot less and less time to being with the Lord, they eventually lose, for all their often heroic activity, the inner strength that sustains them. Their activity becomes an empty activism.”
The fundamental way for priests to remain with the Lord, he said, is through the attentive celebration of the Mass, the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours, the reading of Sacred Scripture, Eucharistic Adoration, and by remaining close to His Mother.
In conclusion, the Pope recalled the life of Saint Conrad a lay brother from Altötting who, “by his sheer goodness and humanity, and without grand words, he gave a message more valuable than words alone.”
Bridgeport, Conn., Sep 11, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic community of the Diocese of Bridgeport gathered to pray for those who died five years ago in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and to honor those who assisted after the attack.
"We honor and pray for first-responders and those who serve in such special and courageous ways," said Bishop William Lori, who presided at the Mass held Sunday at St. Augustine Cathedral.
More than 100 uniformed police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians attended the “Blue” Mass, co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and held every year since the terrorist attacks, reported The Associated Press.
Bishop Lori also received a cross fashioned from a piece of steel found in the ruins of the World Trade Center, along with a police officer's hat, a firefighter's helmet and an emergency medical technician's stethoscope.
Bridgeport Fire Lt. Frank Falanga, who went to New York to help in the aftermath of the attacks, told the AP he remembers how New Yorkers pulled together and welcomed everyone who came to help.
Police officers and firefighters stood at attention and others placed hands over their hearts while the national anthem was sung during the moving memorial.
Ottawa, Canada, Sep 11, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Joseph Faber MacDonald of Saint John, New Brunswick, has resigned due to health reasons. The bishop’s 75th birthday, the age of retirement for bishops, is also approaching.
The bishop had previously announced that he would be taking a medical leave of absence as of Aug. 1, citing depression and loss of energy in recent months. At that time, the bishop had asked for prayers, saying his leave could last up to five months.
Bishop MacDonald served actively as a bishop for 26 years. He served on the permanent council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) and a number of commissions, including the Commission for Relations with Associations of Clergy and Consecrated Life and Laity.
He also served as CCCB representative with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services of Canada and the National Catholic Broadcasting Council. Before being named to the Diocese of Saint John in 1998, he served as Bishop of Grand Falls, Newfoundland, from 1980 to 1998.
In addition to accepting the resignation of Bishop MacDonald, Pope Benedict also appointed Bishop Martin Currie as the apostolic administrator of Saint John. Bishop Currie will act as administrator of Saint John while continuing with his responsibilities as Bishop of Grand Falls. There are currently two other Canadian dioceses with apostolic administrators.
Bishop Currie, 62, was ordained to the priesthood in 1968 and ordained to the episcopate in 2001. He is currently a member of the CCCB’s Commission for Evangelization and one of two CCCB representatives on the national council of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.
The Diocese of Saint John has Catholic population of 115,000 in 91 parishes and missions. The Diocese of Grand Falls serves a Catholic population of 35,000 in 72 parishes and missions.
Vatican City, Sep 11, 2006 (CNA) - A group of six French priests and several seminarians who were formerly members of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X have reestablished full communion with the Catholic Church and begun the “Institute of the Good Shepherd,” with the blessing of Pope Benedict XVI.
Members of the new pontifically-approved Society of Apostolic Life, established in Rome on September 8th, the Feast of the Birth of Mary, can celebrate the Tridentine Mass in Latin. The statutes of the Institute allow its members to “exclusively use the Gregorian liturgy,” the rite found in the liturgical books used prior to the liturgical reform in 1962, the Roman Missal, the Roman Breviary, the Roman Pontifical, and the Roman Ritual.
The Archbishop of Bordeaux and President of the Episcopal Conference of France, Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, noted in a communication that the clergy who belong to the Institute, desire “to practice their priesthood in the doctrinal and liturgical traditions of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.”
The French prelate explained that the Holy Father, “adopted the decision to build this new institute.” In this way, he continued, “they give their will to propose an experience of reconciliation and communion which will be deepened and made more solid with the facts.” The statutes of the Institute of the Good Shepherd have received experimental approval for a period of five years.
The archbishop also explained that the presence of the newly approved Society of Apostolic Life in the Archdiocese of Bordeaux will be regulated by an agreement signed by both parties.
According to the France Press agency, Fathers Paul Aulagnier, Guillaume de Tanouarn, and Philippe Laguérie are the priests being considered to be named Superior General of in the decree creating the new institute.
The seminarians, the agency continued, are to be ordained by Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, Prefect for the Congregation for the Clergy and President of the Commission “Ecclesia Dei” which was created to facilitate the return to full communion of those connected to the Fraternity founded by Lefebvre.
London, England, Sep 11, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI and his brother, Fr. Georg Ratzinger, 82, were surprised to learn this week that their parents, Joseph and Maria, met through a singles ad their father had placed in local Catholic weekly, Liebfraubote.
The disclosure came at the outset of the Pope’s return to his native Bavaria, where he intends to visit his parents’ grave and the village of Marktl am Inn, where he was born, reported the London Times.
The July 1920 ad was found in the Bavarian state archives by a researcher for the tabloid Bild. According to the report, the ad read: “Middle-ranking civil servant, single, Catholic, 43, immaculate past, from the country, is looking for a good Catholic, pure girl who can cook well, tackle all household chores, with a talent for sewing and homemaking with a view to marriage as soon as possible. Fortune desirable but not a precondition.”
Maria Peintner, 36, an illegitimate baker’s daughter and a trained cook, replied. She did not have a fortune, but they married four months later.
The Pope said he remembers his father as “strict but fair” and his mother as warm and open-hearted,” reported the Times.
Marktl am Inn, Germany, Sep 11, 2006 (CNA) - During the third day of his trip to Germany, Pope Benedict XVI will visited hometown of Marktl am Inn, which he has always considered a “place of warmth and family.” The Pontiff shook hands with residents and prayed at the church in which he was baptized.
Benedict XVI remembers little about this town, as he only spent the first two years of his life there. A few hours after being born, on April 16, 1927, he was baptized by Father Josef Stangl at the Church of St. Oswald, with the name “Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger” in the baptismal waters of the Easter Vigil.
The Holy Father once wrote, “To be the first to be baptized with the Easter water was taken as a sign of a special calling.” That the beginning of his life was marked by the mystery of Easter has always been a source of joy and gratitude to God for him.
Marktl am Inn has always maintained close ties to the Holy Father. In 1997, residents conferred upon him the title of “Illustrious Citizen,” on the occasion of his 70th birthday. After a Mass in the parish where he was baptized, then Cardinal Ratzinger was surprised to discover a commemorative plaque that had been on the side of the home where he was born.
At that time the Pope said he was “overcome with the feeling of ‘being at home’ amidst the friendliness and kindheartedness of so many people united by a common tongue and faith. After a long journey through life, it is very beautiful to discover one’s own roots.” The town of Marktl am Inn guards as a special treasure two letters sent by then-Cardinal Ratzinger expressing his joy at visiting his birthplace.
Eight years later, now as Pope Benedict XVI, during the flight back to Rome following World Youth Day in Cologne, the pilot of the Lufthansa jet carrying the Holy Father flew over Ratisbona and Marktl am Inn, and from the in-flight phone the Pope spoke with the two thousand residents gathered at the home where he was born to bid him farewell. They used small mirrors to reflect sunlight towards the Pope’s airplane, as the Mexicans often did when John Paul II left their country.
The faithful of Marktl am Inn were profoundly touched by the Pope’s words: “I hope a spark of the joy I have experienced will leap to Marktl, and I thank you for all that you have done,” he said. “Marktl am Inn is very close to Altötting and thus I would like to pray a Hail Mary with you and impart my blessing.”
Vatican City, Sep 11, 2006 (CNA) - The director of the Press Office of Holy See, Fr. Federico Lombardi, indicated yesterday that the actions of vandals against the birth home of Pope Benedict XVI in Bavaria is “a minor incident” and not a cause of major concern.
“I am not worried and have no idea who is behind these actions,” the priest explained.
Sunday morning an unknown group threw three balloons filled with blue paint at the house where the Pope was born, in Marktl am Inn. The Police are investigating the incident, but have no suspects.
Pope Benedict XVI, plans to pass by his old house tomorrow night. The house is in the process of being converted into a museum of the Pope’s life.
Altotting, Germany, Sep 11, 2006 (CNA) - The city of Altöting is traditionally known as the “heart of Bavaria.” And the heart of Altöting is the Gnadenkapelle (Chapel of Grace), which year after year is visited by thousands of pilgrims from around the world who come to pray. Today, September 11, Pope Benedict XVI joined the ranks of those who come to venerate the “Black Virgin.”
Some time ago, then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote: “I had the fortune of being born close to Altötting. Thus the pilgrimages I made with my parents and siblings to this shrine are among my most early and beautiful memories.”
A 3 year-old child who drowned, and another who was trampled, both miraculously came back to life after their parents prayed to God through the intercession of the Blessed Mother at the location of the shrine in 1489 and 1490. The events marked the beginning of the history of pilgrimages to the holy site.
Located in the Diocese of Passau, the history of Altötting dates back to the 8th century, when on July 10, 748, a nobleman named Wilhelm sponsored the founding of the Monastery of Mondsee. He inscribed on one of the stones, “actum Autingas,” “given at Ötting,” from which the place derived its name.
The chapel there today was built in the middle of the 8th century, and the hearts of many Bavarian kings and princes are preserved there. For this reason the place is called “the heart of Bavaria.”
During Easter the traditional youth pilgrimage takes place, when some seven thousand young people from the Diocese of Passau arrive at the Shrine after a journey of 90 kilometers on foot.
Benedict XVI and the Shrine of Altötting
In 1934 the memories of the canonization of Brother Konrad of Parzham in this city were burned into the heart of Joseph Ratzinger. Years later he would say: “This humble saint is a great sign for our times, which touches me interiorly all the more, the more I live united to him.”
Pope Benedict XVI has visited the Shrine throughout his life. In 1989 he presided at its inauguration and in 1999 he came to give a special discourse on the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Marian Congregation for men. He visited the Shrine again in 2001 and in January of 2005.
After being elected Pope on April 24, 2005, he thanked the mayor of Altötting, Herbert Hofbauer, who sent him a replica of the Black Virgin, and called the Shrine “the heart of Bavaria and one of the hearts of Europe.”
Bogotá, Colombia, Sep 11, 2006 (CNA) - The Executive Committee of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia has issued a statement calling on Catholics not to let themselves be confused by a campaign to discredit the Church and to understand the urgency of not compromising in the defense of life.
The statement denounces the openly pro-abortion mentality that is spreading in the country and demands that the conscientious objection of health care professionals opposed to abortion be respected. It likewise reiterates that Catholics who participate in abortions are excommunicated.
“We are fully confident that amidst the confusion created by pro-abortion proposals and the campaign to discredit the Church, the Catholic faithful will come to understand the reasons why we are decidedly pro-life,” the bishops said.
They criticized the ruling by the Constitutional Court—the equivalent of the US Supreme Court—which said the right to life is not absolute and must be considered in light of other values, principles and rights.
The bishops reiterated that conscientious objection to abortion expressed by health care professionals and other must be respected, as “civil law cant never be a substitute for conscience nor dictate norms that exceed its competence, which is to ensure the common good of persons through the recognition and defense of their fundamental rights,” they said.
“Therefore, those justices that do not recognize man’s rights or trample upon them are not derelict of duty, their rulings carry no force at all,” the bishops added.
They expressed their full support of all health care professionals who refuse to participate in abortion for reasons of conscience. “Doctors are at the service of life and not death,” they underscored. “This ethical principle is valid not only Catholic professionals but for all those who have made the Hippocratic oath their own: I will have absolute respect for human life from the moment of conception.”
The bishops noted likewise that those who participate in abortions, according to Canon Law, are automatically excommunicated whenever the necessary conditions are met: “the person must be over the age of 16 and have done so with full knowledge and consent, free from grave fear or pressure, that is, freely and voluntarily.”
“With this punishment the Church seeks to call the attention of baptized Catholics to the seriousness of abortion and to prevent the offense from being committed,” they said.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 11, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Domingo Castagna of Corrientes called on the faithful this week to eradicate lying from their hearts and to accept the Gospel, because “to live in lies and claim to be a Christian is a contradiction.”
During his weekly reflection, the bishop explained that ceasing to lie is “an immediate consequence of accepting the words of the Gospel.” The grace of Christ, he said, “changes lives and puts man back on the path of the truth.”
He recalled that Jesus “taught his disciples to confront evil with good” and to “return blessings for painful persecutions—even martyrdom—which might befall them throughout history.”
In this sense, he explained, a distorted reading of history is what has led to the “creation of black legends (about the Church) which were accepted without responsible and serious examination.”
There exists “a conspiracy against the truth” by “the great transgressors of essential principles and values,” the archbishop explained. From there “the programmed attack on the traditional family and its substitution with other anti-natural forms” have been born.
Therefore, he reminded the faithful of the call to holiness, as “the saints, whether they are canonized or not, are clear and unique answers of the Church of Christ to the merciless pressure caused by that part of the world that is still untouched by the Redemption.”
“This is the time to be prophets,” he added. “The word of Jesus Christ must be both actively and passively presented in those places that are culturally most obstinate in receiving it.”