During the third day of his trip to Germany, Pope Benedict XVI will visited hometown of Marktl am Inn, which he has always considered a “place of warmth and family.”  The Pontiff shook hands with residents and prayed at the church in which he was baptized.

Benedict XVI remembers little about this town, as he only spent the first two years of his life there.  A few hours after being born, on April 16, 1927, he was baptized by Father Josef Stangl at the Church of St. Oswald, with the name “Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger” in the baptismal waters of the Easter Vigil.

The Holy Father once wrote, “To be the first to be baptized with the Easter water was taken as a sign of a special calling.”  That the beginning of his life was marked by the mystery of Easter has always been a source of joy and gratitude to God for him.

Marktl am Inn has always maintained close ties to the Holy Father.  In 1997, residents conferred upon him the title of “Illustrious Citizen,” on the occasion of his 70th birthday.  After a Mass in the parish where he was baptized, then Cardinal Ratzinger was surprised to discover a commemorative plaque that had been on the side of the home where he was born.

At that time the Pope said he was “overcome with the feeling of ‘being at home’ amidst the friendliness and kindheartedness of so many people united by a common tongue and faith.  After a long journey through life, it is very beautiful to discover one’s own roots.”  The town of Marktl am Inn guards as a special treasure two letters sent by then-Cardinal Ratzinger expressing his joy at visiting his birthplace.  
Eight years later, now as Pope Benedict XVI, during the flight back to Rome following World Youth Day in Cologne, the pilot of the Lufthansa jet carrying the Holy Father flew over Ratisbona and Marktl am Inn, and from the in-flight phone the Pope spoke with the two thousand residents gathered at the home where he was born to bid him farewell.  They used small mirrors to reflect sunlight towards the Pope’s airplane, as the Mexicans often did when John Paul II left their country.

The faithful of Marktl am Inn were profoundly touched by the Pope’s words: “I hope a spark of the joy I have experienced will leap to Marktl, and I thank you for all that you have done,” he said.  “Marktl am Inn is very close to Altötting and thus I would like to pray a Hail Mary with you and impart my blessing.”