In preparation for his visit to Austria this coming Friday through Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI wrote to the diocesan papers of Austria. The Holy Father writes that he wishes to address the current-day encounter between the Gospel and modern life in Austria.
"I love the magnificent landscapes of your homeland which remind me of the Sunday walks of my infancy, ... the great culture of Austria and the friendliness of your people," writes Benedict XVI.
"During my visit," he continues, "I will encounter a great culture enriched with the passing centuries, but above all I will encounter the present: the conflicts and questions of an ever more fast-moving age, the fatigue and faith of being Christian and coexisting with different cultures and traditions."
Austria's Marian "heart," says the Holy Father, is in the Shrine of Mariazell, and he recalls how his private chapel in the Vatican contains a copy of the Virgin of Mariazell which John Paul II brought with him from the shrine.
"When I pray in the chapel," Pope Benedict concludes, "the benevolent face of the Mother of God of Mariazell looks upon me, and I too perceive that sense of tranquillity ... which St. Joseph transmits to the Baby Jesus."