Hundreds of thousands of Bavarians are expected to line routes and fill town squares to catch a glimpse of their favorite son. For the Pope himself, it will be a special and moving homecoming.
“It will be a very emotional
trip,” says Paul Badde,
Much has been packed into the
six-day apostolic voyage, which has the motto “Whoever believes is never
alone.” It will begin Sept. 9 in
An estimated 100,000 people and an
honor guard will be waiting to greet him when he steps off the papal plane.
Benedict will then head into
The next morning he will be taken
by helicopter to the small Bavarian town of
The chapel houses a 13th-century
statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and that has been the site of numerous
miracles attributed to the Blessed Mother. While there, the Pope will
inaugurate a new Eucharistic adoration chapel, celebrate Mass and later vespers
with seminarians and religious and then drive on to the town of his birth, Marktl am
In the evening, the Holy Father
will be flown by helicopter to
Benedict’s other engagements include meeting seminarians and scientists at the university, holding an ecumenical meeting, and spending some time privately with his priest brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger.
On Sept. 14, his final day in
Much careful preparation has gone into the visit.
“It’s been a big operation but we’re very well prepared and we have a lot of support from the police, security and the civic authorities,” said Adelheid Utters-Adam, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.
“The people are very proud to have a German Pope,” she continued, noting that during his more than 20 years living in Rome, the Pope has kept in close contact with his homeland and would visit the region four or five times a year.
“His heart will always be in
For the Holy Father, the aim of the trip is twofold. “The purpose of the visit,” he explained in a recent German television interview, “is precisely because I want to see again the places where I grew up, the people who touched and shaped my life — I want to thank those people.”
But Benedict also wants to take the opportunity to deliver an important message: the need for his countrymen, and the West in general, to return to Christ.
“We have to rediscover God, not just any god, but the God that has a human face, because when we see Jesus Christ, we see God,” he told German television. It is a truth that he will deliver to a Western world that he said is experiencing “a wave of new and drastic enlightenment and secularization.”
But reaching out to all of
Being Bavarian is also sometimes an obstacle.
“It’s not completely correct to
call Benedict XVI a German,” said Badde. “He’s a
At the same time, signs of rebirth
have been emerging in
“Interest in the faith has grown among people who had until recently distanced themselves from it — that is clear,” said Utters-Adam. “In our archdiocese, the numbers wanting to be baptized have also grown.”
Even the skeptical German media have given hints of changing their attitude, especially since Benedict became Pope.
“The secular press has suddenly become more interested in the faith while the Church remains agnosticized and followed Protestantism by becoming dry,” said Badde. “You could say we’re at a watershed moment.”
Edward Pentin writes from