Austria may be only European country visited by Benedict XVI in 2007

.- Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Austria September 7-9 may be his only trip to a European country in 2007, according to the spokesman for the Archdiocese of Vienna.

Father Karl Schauer, the spokesman for the Marian Shrine of Mariazell, told reporters this week, “The Pontiff feels particularly attracted by the Marian shrine of Mariazell, which will celebrate its 850th anniversary in 2007 and would be one of three phases in this papal trip on the feast of the Nativity of Mary on September 8.”

Benedict XVI will also visit the Cistercian monastery of Heiligenkreuz, as well as a Theology school that has recently been given pontifical status.

Speaking to the Kath.net news agency, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said, “Each visit of the Pope is important for the Church in that country.  I saw it recently in Brazil as well.  The local Church feels very encouraged, confirmed in the faith , in the meaning of participation the life of the Church in the world.”  “Therefore, this case is also a particularly favorable situation, because here the Pope’s native tongue is spoken and as we saw in Germany, the possibility exists therefore that the Holy Father will say more things than what he has prepared,” Father Lombardi said.

“Regarding the rest, the Pope is also a southern German and I think that the Austrians feel his closeness to them.  For the Church in general…certainly the Pope has the habit in his travels of addressing issues important to the local Church, but oftentimes they have a general character. Therefore we can expect there to be beautiful occasions for teaching,” the Vatican spokesman stated.

“I think as always there will be special attention to the fundamentals of the faith.  Therefore, we can expect to hear very consistent and profound discourses,” he added.

In explaining why the Pope is going to visit the Shrine of Mariazell, Father Lombardi recalled an interview the Pope gave to German television and to Vatican Radio before his visit to Germany.  “He was even asked about this.  And he answered, ‘I have been invited to visit Mariazell, which is a place for which I have great affection, because I like it very much, and I couldn’t say no.”

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