.- Until just a few days ago, the Marian Cathedral of Freising, with its baroque ornamentation, was full of scaffolding and covered in dust. Today it shines in all of its splendor once again to welcome Pope Benedict XVI, a much anticipated break for the city and one which will forever mark its history.
The Pope has desired to end his visit precisely in the place where he began his priestly life 55 years ago, when together with his brother Georg he was ordained to the priesthood at the city’s Cathedral.
While the final work of restoration to the Cathedral of Freising will not be finished until the end of November, nevertheless today, just a few hours before the Pope’s visit, the doors of the Shrine will be opened to receive the Holy Father. Here he will meet with permanent deacons and the clergy of the archdiocese for a time of prayer before the altar where the relics of the city’s patron, St. Corbinian are conserved.
The visit to Freising is a great wish of the Holy Father. When then Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope on April 19 of 2005, the people of Freising rejoiced in the bond that exists between the city and the person of Benedict XVI. However, at the news of the election, the mayor of the city, Dieter Thalhammer, knowing that the Pope is very uncomfortable with publicity because he once told him so, told the city’s press and population to avoid any exaggeration in the many circulating news stories.
In 1945, an 18 year-old Ratzinger entered the seminary in the city. He studied philosophy and theology, eventually being ordained in 1951 together with his brother Georg and 42 other men.
“It was a bright summer day, which I treasure as one of the most unforgettable moments of my life,” the Holy Father wrote in his autobiography. It was also at the seminary in Freising where he began his life as a teacher, assuming the classes on dogma and fundamental theology.
During his stay at the seminary as professor, he lived at his parents’ home located nearby and next to the Church of St. Benedict. He would remain there 14 years, until he was called to be professor of Theology in 1959, at the University of Bonn. Later he moved on to teach at the University of Tübingen and then the University of Ratisbona.
The close ties between the Holy Father and Freising are also officially apparent: on his papal coat-of-arms appears a crowned Moor and a bear wearing a pack-saddle—both traditional symbols of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.
The bear refers to the legend of St. Corbinian. It is said that while he traveling to Rome a bear mauled his pack animal. The saint then rebuked the wild beast, and commanded the bear to carry his packs to Rome. Once he arrived there, however, he let the bear go, and it lumbered back to its native forest.