After the conclusion of his weekly general audience yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI was made an honorary citizen of the Marian pilgrimage town of Mariazell, Austria. The Pope said that the honor allows him to live close to the mother of God, in his heart and now by law.
The brief ceremony included Helmut Pertl, town mayor; Bishop Egon Kapellari of Graz-Seckau, and Fr. Karl Schauer O.S.B., rector of the Shrine of Mariazell.
The Holy Father responded to being made a citizen of Mariazell because it means "being able to live so close to the Mother of God."
Benedict XVI is no stranger to the Marian shrine, having visited it during his trip to Austria in September 2007.
"Mariazell is much more than just a 'place,'" he explained. It also represents "the living history of a pilgrimage of faith and prayer down the centuries."
At the shrine, he observed, one finds a "real answer" that says "God exists and that, through His mother, He wishes to remain close to us. ... For this reason I am happy to be at home in my heart and now, so to say, also by law, in Mariazell."
After highlighting how Our Lady of Mariazell has such "impressive" names, Benedict XVI explained that the Virgin "is above all 'Magna Mater' (Great Mother) yet," he said, "her greatness is evident precisely in the fact that she addresses herself to the smallest, that she is present for them, that we can turn to her at any moment ... just with our hearts."