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Pope Evaluates Trip to Bavaria

"My Deep Respect for the Great Religions, in Particular for Muslims"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 21, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address at today's general audience, which he dedicated to evaluate his Sept. 9-14 trip to Bavaria.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today I wish to recall again different moments of the pastoral trip that the Lord allowed me to undertake last week to Bavaria. On sharing with you the emotions and sentiments felt when returning to those dearly beloved places, I feel the need first of all to thank God for having made possible this second visit to Germany and, for the first time, to Bavaria, my native land.

I also sincerely thank all those who worked with dedication and patience -- pastors, priests, pastoral agents, public authorities, organizers, security forces and volunteers -- so that each one of the events would unfold in the best possible way. As I said on my arrival at the Munich airport on Saturday, September 9, the purpose of the trip, remembering all those who contributed to form my personality, was to reaffirm and confirm, as Successor of the Apostle Peter, the close bonds that unite the See of Rome with the Church in Germany.

Therefore, the trip was not simply a "return" to the past, but also a providential opportunity to look to the future with hope. "Those who believe are never alone": The motto of the visit was meant to be an invitation to reflect on every baptized person's membership in the one Church of Christ, within which one is never alone, but in constant communion with God and all brothers.

The first stage was the city of Munich, known as "the metropolis with a heart" ("Weltstadt mit Herz"). In its historical center is the "Marienplatz," Mary's Square, in which arises the "Mariensaeule," the Virgin's Column, at the summit of which is the golden bronze statue of Mary.

I wished to begin my stay with the homage to the Patroness of Bavaria, as for me it has a highly significant value: In that square and before that Marian image, I was welcomed as archbishop some 30 years ago and I began my episcopal mission with a prayer to Mary; I returned there at the end of my mandate, before leaving for Rome. This time I wished to place myself once again at the foot of the "Mariensaeule" to implore the intercession and blessing of the Mother of God, not only for the city of Munich and for Bavaria, but for the whole Church and the entire world.

The following day, Sunday, I celebrated the Eucharist in the esplanade of the "Neue Messe" (New Fair) of Munich, among the faithful gathered in great numbers from different parts: Allowing myself to be guided by the Gospel passage of the day, I reminded everyone that especially today there is suffering from a certain "deafness" to God. We Christians have the task of proclaiming and witnessing to all, in a secularized world, the message of hope that faith offers us: In Jesus crucified, God, merciful Father, calls us to be his children and to overcome every form of hatred and violence in order to contribute to the definitive triumph of love.

"Make Us Strong in the Faith" was the motto of the meeting on Sunday afternoon with the first-Communion children and their young families, with the catechists and the other pastoral agents and persons who collaborate in the evangelization of the Diocese of Munich. Together, we celebrated Vespers in the historic cathedral, known as "Our Lady's Cathedral," where the relics of St. Benno are kept, patron of the city, in which I was ordained bishop in 1977.

I reminded the little ones and adults that God is not far from us, in some unreachable place of the universe; on the contrary, in Jesus, he came to establish a relationship of friendship with each one of us. Thanks to the constant commitment of its members, every Christian community and, in particular, the parish, is called to become a great family, able to advance united on the path of true life.

The day of Monday, September 11, was dedicated in large part to the visit to Altoetting, in the Diocese of Passau. This small city is known as the "heart of Bavaria" ("Herz Bayerns"), and there is kept the "Black Virgin," venerated in the "Gnadenkapelle" (Chapel of Graces), the object of numerous pilgrimages from Germany and nations of Central Europe.

In the vicinity is the Capuchin monastery of St. Anne, where St. Konrad Birndorfer lived, canonized by my venerated predecessor, Pope Pius XI, in the year 1934. With the numerous faithful present at the holy Mass, celebrated in the square next to the shrine, we reflected together on Mary's role in the work of salvation to learn from her helpful kindness, humility and the generous acceptance of the divine will.

Mary leads us to Jesus: This truth was even more visible, at the end of the divine Sacrifice, with the procession in which with ...

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