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Papal Address at Munich's Mariensaeule

"A Beast of Burden"

MUNICH, Germany, SEPT. 12, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday at Munich's Mariensaeule (Virgin's Column), during which he once again entrusted Bavaria to the Mother of God.

* * *

Lady Chancellor and Mr. Minister President,
Dear Lord Cardinals,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Brothers and Sisters:

It is particularly moving for me to be in this most beautiful square again at the foot of the Mariensaeule, a place that, as has just been mentioned, on two other occasions has witnessed decisive changes for my life.

Here, as mentioned, almost 30 years ago, the faithful welcomed me with joy and I placed in the Virgin's hands the journey I was to undertake, as the step from a university chair to the service of archbishop of Munich and Freising was an enormous leap.

Only with this protection and with the evident love of the inhabitants of Munich and Bavaria did I dare to assume that ministry, succeeding Cardinal Döpfner. Then, in 1982, I bid farewell here. Present was the archbishop of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Hamer, who would later be cardinal, and I said to him: "The inhabitants of Munich are like the Neapolitans, they want to touch the archbishop, they love him."

He was impressed to see here, in Munich, so much cordialness, to be able to know the Bavarian heart in this place, in which I, once again, entrusted myself to the Virgin.

I thank the distinguished and dear Mr. Minister President for the cordial welcome addressed to me in the name of the government and the Bavarian people. My heartfelt thanks also to my beloved successor, the pastor of the archdiocese of Munich and Freising, the Lord Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, for the warm words with which he has greeted me.

I greet the Lady Chancellor, Dr. Angela Merkel, and all the political, civil and military authorities who wished to take part in this meeting of welcome and prayer.

I would like to offer a special greeting to the priests, especially those whom I worked with in my home diocese of Munich and Freising, as priest and bishop.

But I would like to greet all my fellow countrymen, gathered in this square with great cordialness and gratitude. I thank you for your warm Bavarian welcome and I thank you, as I already did at the airport, for the service of all those who cooperated in the preparation of this visit and who now are doing everything possible so that all will go well.

Allow me on this occasion to again express a thought that, in my brief memoirs, I developed in the context of my appointment as archbishop of Munich and Freising. I had to become successor of St. Corbinian and I did so.

From my childhood I was fascinated by his legend, according to which, a bear had mangled the saint's horse during his trip across the Alps. Corbinian reprimanded it severely and, as punishment, put all his baggage on its back all the way to Rome. So the bear, weighed down with the saint's burden, had to walk to Rome and only then did Corbinian set him free.

In 1977, when I had to face the difficult decision whether or not to accept my appointment as archbishop of Munich and Freising, which would have taken me away from my accustomed university activity, leading me to new tasks and new responsibilities, I reflected much.

Then I remembered that bear and the interpretation of verses 22 and 23 of Psalm 73, which St. Augustine developed, in a situation very similar to mine in the context of his priestly and episcopal ordination, and which he would later express in his sermons on the Psalms.

In this psalm, the psalmist wonders why it frequently goes well for the wicked of this world and why it goes so badly for many good persons. Then, the psalmist says: I was foolish and did not understand, standing before you like a brute beast, but then I entered the sanctuary and understood that precisely in difficulties I was very close to you and you were always with me.

With love, Augustine often took up this psalm and, seeing in the expression "I was like a brute beast in your presence" ("iumentum" in Latin) in reference to the beasts of burden that were then used in North Africa to plough the earth, identified himself with that "iumentum," as a beast of burden of God, identified with it as some one who is under the weight of his burden, the "sarcina episcopalis" [episcopal ministry].

He had chosen the life of a scholar and, as he says later, God called him to be a "beast of burden," a good ox drawing the plow in God's field, which does the hard work entrusted to it. But then he acknowledges: Just as the beast of burden is very close to the farmer, working under his guidance, so I am also very close to God, as this way I serve him directly for the building of his Kingdom, for the building of the Church.

With the background of this thought of the bishop of Hippo, St. Corbinian's bear always encourages me again to carry out my service with joy and confidence -- 30 years ago and also today, in my new task -- saying day after day "yes" to God: I have become for you a beast of burden, but as such "I am always with you" (Psalm 73:23). St. Corbinian's bear was set free in Rome. In my case, the "Owner" decided otherwise. And so I find myself again at the foot of the Mariensaeule, imploring the intercession and blessing of the Mother of God, not only for the city of Munich and for my beloved Bavaria, but for the universal Church and for all people of good will.

© Copyright 2006 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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