Pope John Paul II today welcomed 2,000 members of the Schoenstatt movement, a Catholic secular institute devoted to defending family life and to venerating Mary, to the apostolic palace at Castelgandolfo on the occasion of the inauguration yesterday of the Matri Ecclesiae Shrine and Schoenstatt Center in Belmonte in the Roman neighborhood of Casalotti.
Members came to Rome on pilgrimage from various parts of the world for a three-day celebration that started September 7.
In brief remarks in German, the Pope told his guests that by building their shrine in Rome they deepened their ties to the Successor of Peter and to the Universal Church. He noted that the movement has many branches throughout the world dedicated to their apostolate and to the ideal of Christian holiness.
In particular he highlighted the closeness of the Schoenstatt movement to families as the basic cell of society, culture and the Church and their efforts to fight the threats against life in the modern world, most especially abortion.
The Pope also noted how members of the movement honor Mary, under whose protection the institute is plaed, as mother and educator, in their homes, so that homes become "domestic churches."