Benedict XVI"s visit to Austria (September 2007)

 
  APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO AUSTRIA
ON THE OCCASION  OF THE 850th ANNIVERSARY OF THE FOUNDATION OF THE SHRINE OF MARIAZELL


Papal Homily at Shrine of Mariazell
"Whenever We Look Toward Mary, She Shows Us Jesus"

MARIAZELL, Austria, SEPT. 8, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered at the Marian shrine of Mariazell, to mark the 850th anniversary of its foundation.

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EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Square in front of the Basilica of Mariazell
Saturday, 8 September 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With our great pilgrimage to Mariazell, we are celebrating the patronal feast of this Shrine, the feast of Our Lady's Birthday. For 850 years pilgrims have been travelling here from different peoples and nations; they come to pray for the intentions of their hearts and their homelands, bringing their deepest hopes and concerns. In this way Mariazell has become a place of peace and reconciled unity, not only for Austria, but far beyond her borders. Here we experience the consoling kindness of the Madonna. Here we meet Jesus Christ, in whom God is with us, as today's Gospel reminds us -- Jesus, of whom we have just heard in the reading from the prophet Micah: "He himself will be peace" (5:4). Today we join in the great centuries-old pilgrimage. We rest awhile with the Mother of the Lord, and we pray to her: Show us Jesus. Show to us pilgrims the one who is both the way and the destination: the truth and the life.

The Gospel passage we have just heard broadens our view. It presents the history of Israel from Abraham onwards as a pilgrimage, which, with its ups and downs, its paths and detours, leads us finally to Christ. The genealogy with its light and dark figures, its successes and failures, shows us that God can write straight even on the crooked lines of our history. God allows us our freedom, and yet in our failures he can always find new paths for his love. God does not fail. Hence this genealogy is a guarantee of God's faithfulness; a guarantee that God does not allow us to fall, and an invitation to direct our lives ever anew towards him, to walk ever anew towards Jesus Christ.

Making a pilgrimage means setting out in a particular direction, travelling towards a destination. This gives a beauty of its own even to the journey and to the effort involved. Among the pilgrims of Jesus's genealogy there were many who forgot the goal and wanted to make themselves the goal. Again and again, though, the Lord called forth people whose longing for the goal drove them forward, people who directed their whole lives towards it. The awakening of the Christian faith, the dawning of the Church of Jesus Christ was made possible, because there were people in Israel whose hearts were searching -- people who did not rest content with custom, but who looked further ahead, in search of something greater: Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, Anna, Mary and Joseph, the Twelve and many others. Because their hearts were expectant, they were able to recognize in Jesus the one whom God had sent, and thus they could become the beginning of his worldwide family. The Church of the Gentiles was made possible, because both in the Mediterranean area and in those parts of Asia to which the messengers of Jesus travelled, there were expectant people who were not satisfied by what everyone around them was doing and thinking, but who were seeking the star which could show them the way towards Truth itself, towards the living God.

We too need an open and restless heart like theirs. This is what pilgrimage is all about. Today as in the past, it is not enough to be more or less like everyone else and to think like everyone else. Our lives have a deeper purpose. We need God, the God who has shown us his face and opened his heart to us: Jesus Christ. Saint John rightly says of him that only he is God and rests close to the Father's heart (cf. Jn 1:18); thus only he, from deep within God himself, could reveal God to us -- reveal to us who we are, from where we come and where we are going. Certainly, there are many great figures in history who have had beautiful and moving experiences of God. Yet these are still human experiences, and therefore finite. Only He is God and therefore only He is the bridge that truly brings God and man together. So if we Christians call him the one universal Mediator of salvation, valid for everyone and, ultimately, needed by everyone, this does not mean that we despise other religions, nor are we arrogantly absolutizing our own ideas; on the contrary, it means that we are gripped by him who has touched our hearts and lavished gifts upon us, so that we, in turn, can offer gifts to others. In fact, our faith is decisively opposed to the attitude of resignation that considers man incapable of truth -- as if this were more than he could cope with. This attitude of resignation with regard to truth, I am convinced, lies at the heart of the crisis of the West, the crisis of Europe. If truth does not exist for man, then neither can he ultimately distinguish between good and evil. And then the great and wonderful discoveries of science become double-edged: they can open up significant possibilities for good, for the benefit of mankind, but also, as we see only too clearly, they can pose a terrible threat, involving the destruction of man and the world. We need truth. Yet admittedly, in the light of our history we are fearful that faith in the truth might entail intolerance. If we are gripped by this fear, which is historically well grounded, then it is time to look towards Jesus as we see him in the shrine at Mariazell. We see him here in two images: as the child in his Mother's arms, and above the high altar of the Basilica as the Crucified. These two images in the Basilica tell us this: truth prevails not through external force, but it is humble and it yields itself to man only via the inner force of its veracity. Truth proves itself in love. It is never our property, never our product, just as love can never be produced, but only received and handed on as a gift. We need this inner force of truth. As Christians we trust this force of truth. We are its witnesses. We must hand it on as a gift in the same way as we have received it, as it has given itself to us.

"To gaze upon Christ" is the motto of this day. For one who is searching, this summons repeatedly turns into a spontaneous plea, a plea addressed especially to Mary, who has given us Christ as her Son: "Show us Jesus!" Let us make this prayer today with our whole heart; let us make this prayer above and beyond the present moment, as we inwardly seek the Face of the Redeemer. "Show us Jesus!" Mary responds, showing him to us in the first instance as a child. God has made himself small for us. God comes not with external force, but he comes in the powerlessness of his love, which is where his true strength lies. He places himself in our hands. He asks for our love. He invites us to become small ourselves, to come down from our high thrones and to learn to be childlike before God. He speaks to us informally. He asks us to trust him and thus to learn how to live in truth and love. The child Jesus naturally reminds us also of all the children in the world, in whom he wishes to come to us. Children who live in poverty; who are exploited as soldiers; who have never been able to experience the love of parents; sick and suffering children, but also those who are joyful and healthy. Europe has become child-poor: we want everything for ourselves, and place little trust in the future. Yet the earth will be deprived of a future only when the forces of the human heart and of reason illuminated by the heart are extinguished -- when the face of God no longer shines upon the earth. Where God is, there is the future.

"To gaze upon Christ": let us look briefly now at the Crucified One above the high altar. God saved the world not by the sword, but by the Cross. In dying, Jesus extends his arms. This, in the first place, is the posture of the Passion, in which he lets himself be nailed to the Cross for us, in order to give us his life. Yet outstretched arms are also the posture of one who prays, the stance assumed by the priest when he extends his arms in prayer: Jesus transformed the Passion, his suffering and his death, into prayer, and in this way he transformed it into an act of love for God and for humanity. That, finally, is why the outstretched arms of the Crucified One are also a gesture of embracing, by which he draws us to himself, wishing to enfold us in his loving hands. In this way he is an image of the living God, he is God himself, and we may entrust ourselves to him.

"To gaze upon Christ!" If we do this, we realize that Christianity is more than and different from a moral code, from a series of requirements and laws. It is the gift of a friendship that lasts through life and death: "No longer do I call you servants, but friends" (Jn 15:15), the Lord says to his disciples. We entrust ourselves to this friendship. Yet precisely because Christianity is more than a moral system, because it is the gift of friendship, for this reason it also contains within itself great moral strength, which is so urgently needed today on account of the challenges of our time. If with Jesus Christ and his Church we constantly re-read the Ten Commandments of Sinai, entering into their full depth, then a great, valid and lasting teaching unfolds before us. The Ten Commandments are first and foremost a "yes" to God, to a God who loves us and leads us, who carries us and yet allows us our freedom: indeed, it is he who makes our freedom real (the first three commandments). It is a "yes" to the family (fourth commandment), a "yes" to life (fifth commandment), a "yes" to responsible love (sixth commandment), a "yes" to solidarity, to social responsibility and to justice (seventh commandment), a "yes" to truth (eighth commandment) and a "yes" to respect for other people and for what is theirs (ninth and tenth commandments). By the strength of our friendship with the living God we live this manifold "yes" and at the same time we carry it as a signpost into this world of ours today.

"Show us Jesus!" It was with this plea to the Mother of the Lord that we set off on our journey here. This same plea will accompany us as we return to our daily lives. And we know that Mary hears our prayer: yes, whenever we look towards Mary, she shows us Jesus. Thus we can find the right path, we can follow it step by step, filled with joyful confidence that the path leads into the light -- into the joy of eternal Love. Amen.

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Benedict XVI's Address to Austrian Politicians
"The Fundamental Human Right ... Is the Right to Life"

VIENNA, Austria, SEPT. 8, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI gave Friday to the members of government and diplomatic corps in Austria, during an address in the reception hall of Vienna's Hofburg Palace, the seat of the Austrian presidency.

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Mr President of the Federal Republic,
Mr President of the National Council,
Mr Chancellor,

Members of the Federal Government,
Deputies to the National Council
and Members of the Federal Council,

Presidents of the Provinces,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Introduction

It is my great joy and honour to meet you today, Mr President, together with the members of the Federal Government and representatives of the political and civic life of the Republic of Austria. Our meeting here in the Hofburg reflects the good relations, marked by reciprocal trust, which exist between your country and the Holy See, as you have mentioned. For this I am most pleased.

Relations between Austria and the Holy See are part of that vast network of diplomatic relations in which Vienna serves as an important crossroads, inasmuch as a number of international Organizations have their headquarters in this city. I am pleased by the presence of many diplomatic representatives, whom I greet with respect. I thank you, distinguished Ambassadors, for your dedicated service, not only to the countries which you represent and to their interests, but also to the common cause of peace and understanding between peoples.

This is my first visit as Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pastor of the universal Catholic Church to this country, which I know well from many earlier visits. It is -- may I say -- a joy for me to be here. I have many friends here and, as a Bavarian neighbour, Austria's way of life and traditions are entirely familiar to me. My great predecessor of blessed memory, Pope John Paul II, visited Austria three times. Each time he was received most cordially by the people of this country, his words were listened to attentively, and his apostolic journeys left their mark.

Austria

In recent years and decades, Austria has registered advances which were inconceivable even two generations ago. Your country has not only experienced significant economic progress, but has also developed a model of social coexistence synonymous with the term "social solidarity". Austrians have every reason to be grateful for this, and they have demonstrated it not only by opening their hearts to the poor and the needy in their native land, but also by demonstrating generous solidarity in the event of catastrophes and disasters worldwide. The great initiatives of Licht ins Dunkel ("Light in the Darkness") at Christmastime, and Nachbar in Not ("Neighbour in Need") bear eloquent testimony to this attitude.

Austria and the expansion of the European Union

We are gathered in an historical setting, which for centuries was the seat of an Empire uniting vast areas of Central and Eastern Europe. This time and place offer us a good opportunity to take a far-ranging look at today's Europe. After the horrors of war and traumatic experiences of totalitarianism and dictatorship, Europe is moving towards a unity capable of ensuring a lasting order of peace and just development. The painful division which split the continent for decades has come to an end politically, yet the goal of unity remains in great part still to be achieved in the minds and hearts of individuals. If, after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, certain excessive hopes were disappointed, and on some points justified criticisms can be raised about certain European institutions, the process of unification remains a most significant achievement which has brought a period of unwonted peace to this continent, formerly consumed by constant conflicts and fatal fratricidal wars. For the countries of Central and Eastern Europe in particular, participating in this process is a further incentive to the consolidation of freedom, the constitutional state and democracy within their borders. Here I should recall the contribution made by my predecessor, Pope John Paul II, to that historic process. Austria too, as a bridge-country situated at the crossroads of West and East, has contributed much to this unification and has also -- we must not forget -- greatly benefited from it.

Europe

The "European home", as we readily refer to the community of this continent, will be a good place to live for everyone only if it is built on a solid cultural and moral foundation of common values drawn from our history and our traditions. Europe cannot and must not deny her Christian roots. These represent a dynamic component of our civilization as we move forward into the third millennium. Christianity has profoundly shaped this continent: something clearly evident in every country, and particularly in Austria, not least from the number of churches and important monasteries. Above all, the faith is seen in the countless people whom in the course of history, and in our own day as well, it has brought to a life of hope, love and mercy. Mariazell, Austria's great national shrine, is also a meeting-place for the different peoples of Europe. It is one of those places where men and women have drawn, and continue to draw, "strength from on high" for an upright life.

During these days, the witness of Christian faith at the heart of Europe is also finding expression in the Third European Ecumenical Assembly meeting in Sibiu (Romania), whose motto is: "The Light of Christ Shines on All. Hope for Renewal and Unity in Europe". One spontaneously recalls the 2004 Central European Katholikentag, on the theme: "Christ -- The Hope of Europe", which brought so many believers together in Mariazell!

Nowadays we hear much of the "European model of life". The term refers to a social order marked by a sound economy combined with social justice, by political pluralism combined with tolerance, generosity and openness, and at the same time the preservation of the values which have made this continent what it is. This model, under the pressure of modern economic forces, faces a great challenge. The oft-cited process of globalization cannot be halted, yet it is an urgent task and a great responsibility of politics to regulate and limit globalization, so that it will not occur at the expense of the poorer nations and of the poor in wealthier nations, and prove detrimental to future generations.

Certainly Europe has also experienced and suffered from terribly misguided courses of action. These have included: ideological restrictions imposed on philosophy, science and also faith, the abuse of religion and reason for imperialistic purposes, the degradation of man resulting from theoretical and practical materialism, and finally the degeneration of tolerance into an indifference with no reference to permanent values. But Europe has also been marked by a capacity for self-criticism which gives it a distinctive place within the vast panorama of the world's cultures.

Life

It was in Europe that the notion of human rights was first formulated. The fundamental human right, the presupposition of every other right, is the right to life itself. This is true of life from the moment of conception until its natural end. Abortion, consequently, cannot be a human right -- it is the very opposite. It is "a deep wound in society", as the late Cardinal Franz König never tired of repeating.

In stating this, I am not expressing a specifically ecclesial concern. Rather, I am acting as advocate for a profoundly human need, speaking out on behalf of those unborn children who have no voice. I do not close my eyes to the difficulties and the conflicts which many women are experiencing, and I realize that the credibility of what we say also depends on what the Church herself is doing to help women in trouble.

I appeal, then, to political leaders not to allow children to be considered as a form of illness, nor to abolish in practice your legal system's acknowledgment that abortion is wrong. I say this out of a concern for humanity. But that is only one side of this disturbing problem. The other is the need to do everything possible to make European countries once again open to welcoming children. Encourage young married couple to establish new families and to become mothers and fathers! You will not only assist them, but you will benefit society as a whole. We also decisively support you in your political efforts to favour conditions enabling young couples to raise children. Yet all this will be pointless, unless we can succeed in creating once again in our countries a climate of joy and confidence in life, a climate in which children are not seen as a burden, but rather as a gift for all.

Another great concern of mine is the debate on what has been termed "actively assisted death". It is to be feared that at some point the gravely ill or elderly will be subjected to tacit or even explicit pressure to request death or to administer it to themselves. The proper response to end-of-life suffering is loving care and accompaniment on the journey towards death -- especially with the help of palliative care -- and not "actively assisted death". But if humane accompaniment on the journey towards death is to prevail, urgent structural reforms are needed in every area of the social and healthcare system, as well as organized structures of palliative care. Concrete steps would also have to be taken: in the psychological and pastoral accompaniment of the seriously ill and dying, their family members, and physicians and healthcare personnel. In this field the hospice movement has done wonders. The totality of these tasks, however, cannot be delegated to it alone. Many other people need to be prepared or encouraged in their willingness to spare neither time nor expense in loving care for the gravely ill and dying.

The dialogue of reason

Yet another part of the European heritage is a tradition of thought which considers as essential a substantial correspondence between faith, truth and reason. Here the issue is whether or not reason stands at the beginning and foundation of all things. The issue is whether reality originates by chance and necessity, and thus whether reason is merely a chance by-product of the irrational and, in an ocean of irrationality, it too, in the end, is meaningless, or whether instead the underlying conviction of Christian faith remains true: In principio erat Verbum -- in the beginning was the Word; at the origin of everything is the creative reason of God who decided to make himself known to us human beings.

In this context, permit me to quote Jürgen Habermas, a philosopher not of the Christian faith: "For the normative self-understanding of the modern period Christianity has been more than a mere catalyst. The egalitarian universalism which gave rise to the ideas of freedom and social coexistence, is a direct inheritance from the Jewish notion of justice and the Christian ethics of love. Substantially unchanged, this heritage has always been critically reappropriated and newly interpreted. To this day an alternative to it does not exist".

Europe's tasks in the world

Given the uniqueness of its calling, Europe also has a unique responsibility in the world. First of all, it must not give up on itself. The continent which, demographically, is rapidly aging, must not become old in spirit. Furthermore, Europe will grow more sure of itself if it accepts a responsibility in the world corresponding to its singular intellectual tradition, its extraordinary resources and its great economic power. The European Union should therefore assume a role of leadership in the fight against global poverty and in efforts to promote peace. With gratitude we can observe that the countries of Europe and the European Union are among those making the greatest contribution to international development, but they also need to make their political importance felt, for example, with regard to the urgent challenges presented in Africa, given the immense tragedies afflicting that continent, such as the scourge of AIDS, the situation in Darfur, the unjust exploitation of natural resources and the disturbing traffic in arms. Nor can the political and diplomatic efforts of Europe and its countries neglect the continuing serious situation in the Middle East, where everyone's contribution is needed to promote the rejection of violence, reciprocal dialogue and a truly peaceful coexistence. Europe's relationship with the nations of Latin America and Asia must also continue to grow through suitable trade agreements.

Conclusion

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen! Austria is a country which is greatly blessed: by an immense natural beauty which attracts millions of holiday-makers each year; unique cultural treasures, created and amassed by many generations; and many culturally talented and creative individuals. Everywhere one can see the fruits of the diligence and gifts of industrious men and women. This is a reason for pride and gratitude. But Austria is certainly not an "enchanted island" nor does it consider itself such. Self-criticism is always a good thing, and, of course, is also widespread in Austria. A country which has received so much must also give much. It can be rightly self-assured, while also sensing the need for a certain responsibility with regard to neighbouring countries, in Europe and in the world.

Much of what Austria is and possesses, it owes to the Christian faith and its beneficial effects on individual men and women. The faith has profoundly shaped the character of this country and its people. Consequently it should be everyone's concern to ensure that the day will never come when only its stones speak of Christianity! An Austria without a vibrant Christian faith would no longer be Austria.

Upon you and all the people of Austria, especially the elderly and infirm, as well as the young whose lives lie ahead of them, I invoke hope, confidence, joy and God's blessings!


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Benedict XVI's Greeting at Vienna's Airport
I "Go As a Pilgrim to Mariazell"

VIENNA, Austria, SEPT. 7, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's greeting upon arriving at the Vienna International Airport today.

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Mr President,
Mr Chancellor,

Your Eminence,
Dear Brother Bishops,

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear young friends!

With great joy I am now setting foot, for the first time since the beginning of my Pontificate, in the land of Austria, a country which I know well, not least from its geographical closeness to my birthplace. I thank you, Mr President, for the cordial words with which you have welcomed me in the name of the whole Austrian people. You know how close I feel to your native land and to many of the people and places in your country. This cultural space in the heart of Europe transcends borders and brings together ideas and energies from various parts of the continent. The culture of this country is deeply imbued with the message of Jesus Christ and the activity which the Church has carried out in his name. All this, and much more, gives me a vivid sense, dear Austrian friends, of being "at home" here in your midst.

The reason for my coming to Austria is the 850th anniversary of the shrine of Mariazell. This Marian sanctuary in some way represents the maternal heart of Austria, and has always had a particular importance also for Hungarians and the Slavic peoples. It symbolizes an openness which not only transcends physical and national frontiers, but, in the person of Mary, reminds us of an essential dimension of human beings: their capacity for openness to God and his word of truth.

In this way, I would like, during these three days here in Austria, to go as a pilgrim to Mariazell. In recent years, I have been pleased to notice among many people an increased interest in the idea of pilgrimage. Journeying as pilgrims, young people in particular have found a new way to reflect and meditate; they come to know one another and together they encounter creation and the history of faith which, often and perhaps unexpectedly, they experience as a source of strength for the present. I intend my pilgrimage to Mariazell to be a journey made in the company of all the pilgrims of our time. In this spirit I will soon lead the people in prayer in the centre of Vienna, prayer which, like a spiritual pilgrimage, will accompany these days throughout your country.

Mariazell does not only represent 850 years of history, but shows us on the basis of that history -- as reflected in the statue of the Blessed Mother pointing to Christ her Son -- the way to the future. In view of this, today I would like, along with Austria's political authorities and the representatives of international organizations, to take another look at our present and our future.

Tomorrow, the Feast of the Nativity of Mary, the patronal feast of Mariazell, will bring me to that holy place. In the Eucharistic celebration in front of the Basilica we will gather, as Mary has shown us, around Christ who comes into our midst. We will ask him to help us better to contemplate him, to see him in our brothers and sisters, to serve him in them, and to walk with him on the way that leads to the Father. As pilgrims to the Shrine, we will be united in prayer and, thanks to the communications media, united also with the faithful and all men and women of good will within this country and far beyond its borders.

Pilgrimage means more than just journeying to a shrine. The journey back to our everyday life is also fundamental. Each week of our ordinary life begins with Sunday -- with this liberating gift of God which we wish to receive and treasure. And so we will celebrate Mass this Sunday in Saint Stephen's Cathedral -- in communion with all those gathered for Holy Mass in the parish churches of Austria and throughout the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen! I know that in Austria many people, on Sunday, the day of rest from work, and during their free time on other days of the week, engage in volunteer work and service to others. Such commitment, offered generously and disinterestedly for the welfare of others, also marks the pilgrimage of our life. Whoever, "looks to" his neighbour -- seeing him and helping him -- looks to Christ and serves him. Guided and encouraged by Mary, we wish to sharpen our gaze as Christians, in order to see the challenges which need to be met in the spirit of the Gospel and, full of gratitude and hope, to walk from a past which has been at times difficult, yet always filled with grace, towards a future of promise.

Mr. President, dear Friends! I am looking forward to spending these days in Austria. At the beginning of my pilgrimage, I greet all of you with a heartfelt Grüß Gott!

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Pope's Prayer at the Mariensaeule
Mary "Personifies Our True Humanity"

VIENNA, Austria, SEPT. 7, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's greeting and prayer he delivered today from the balcony of the Church of the Nine Angelic Choirs, to those gathered around the Mariensaeule -- a bronze column dedicated to the Virgin Mary -- located in the Am Hauf Plaza in Vienna.

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Your Eminence,
Your Honour,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

As the first stop of my pilgrimage to Mariazell I have chosen the Mariensäule, to reflect briefly with all of you on the significance of the Mother of God for Austria past and present, and her significance for each one of us. I offer a cordial greeting to all those gathered here to pray beneath the Mariensäule. I thank you, dear Eminence, for the warm words of welcome at the beginning of our celebration. I greet the Mayor and the other Authorities present. I particularly greet the young people and the representatives of the foreign-language Catholic communities in the Archdiocese of Vienna, who will gather after this Liturgy of the Word in the church and will remain until tomorrow in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. In this way, they will very concretely accomplish what all of us wish to do in these days: with Mary, to look to Christ.

From earliest times, faith in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, has been linked to a particular veneration for his Mother, for the Woman in whose womb he took on our human nature, sharing even in the beating of her heart. Mary is the Woman who accompanied Jesus with sensitivity and deference throughout his life, even to his death on the Cross. At the end, he commended to her maternal love the beloved disciple and, with him, all humanity. In her maternal love, Mary continues to take under her protection people of all languages and cultures, and to lead them together, within a multiform unity, to Christ. In our problems and needs we can turn to Mary. Yet we must also learn from her to accept one another lovingly in the same way that she has accepted all of us: each as an individual, willed as such and loved by God. In God's universal family, in which there is a place for everyone, each person must develop his gifts for the good of all.

The Mariensäule, built by the Emperor Ferdinand III in thanksgiving for the liberation of Vienna from great danger and inaugurated by him exactly 360 years ago, must also be a sign of hope for us today. How many persons, over the years, have stood before this column and lifted their gaze to Mary in prayer! How many have experienced in times of trouble the power of her intercession! Our Christian hope includes much more than the mere fulfilment of our wishes and desires, great or small. We turn our gaze to Mary, because she points out to us the great hope to which we have been called (cf. Eph 1:18), because she personifies our true humanity!

This is what we have just heard in the reading from the Letter to the Ephesians: even before the creation of the world, God chose us in Christ. From eternity he has known and loved each one of us! And why did he choose us? To be holy and immaculate before him in love! This is no impossible task: in Christ he has already brought it to fulfilment. We have been redeemed! By virtue of our communion with the Risen Christ, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Let us open our hearts; let us accept this precious legacy! Then we will be able to sing, together with Mary, the praises of his glorious grace. And if we continue to bring our everyday concerns to the immaculate Mother of Christ, she will help us to open our little hopes ever more fully toward that great and true hope which gives meaning to our lives and is able to fill us with a deep and imperishable joy.

With these sentiments I would now like to join you in looking to Mary Immaculate, entrusting to her intercession the prayers which you have just now presented, and imploring her maternal protection upon this country and its people:

Holy Mary, Immaculate Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, in you God has given us the model of the Church and of genuine humanity. To you I entrust the country of Austria and its people. Help all of us to follow your example and to direct our lives completely to God! Grant that, by looking to Christ, we may become ever more like him: true children of God! Then we too, filled with every spiritual blessing, will be able to conform ourselves more fully to his will and to become instruments of his peace for Austria, Europe and the world. Amen.

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Papal Homily in Cathedral of Vienna
"Give the Soul Its Sunday, Give Sunday Its Soul"

VIENNA, Austria, SEPT. 9, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered today during the Mass he presided over in St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"Sine dominico non possumus!" Without the gift of the Lord, without the Lord's day, we cannot live: That was the answer given in the year 304 by Christians from Abitene in present-day Tunisia, when they were caught celebrating the forbidden Sunday Eucharist and brought before the judge. They were asked why they were celebrating the Christian Sunday Eucharist, even though they knew it was a capital offence. "Sine dominico non possumus": in the word dominico two meanings are inextricably intertwined, and we must once more learn to recognize their unity. First of all there is the gift of the Lord -- this gift is the Lord himself: the Risen one, whom the Christians simply need to have close and accessible to them, if they are to be themselves. Yet this accessibility is not merely something spiritual, inward and subjective: the encounter with the Lord is inscribed in time on a specific day. And so it is inscribed in our everyday, corporal and communal existence, in temporality. It gives a focus, an inner order to our time and thus to the whole of our lives. For these Christians, the Sunday Eucharist was not a commandment, but an inner necessity. Without him who sustains our lives with his love, life itself is empty. To do without or to betray this focus would deprive life of its very foundation, would take away its inner dignity and beauty.

Does this attitude of the Christians of that time apply also to us who are Christians today? Yes, it does, we too need a relationship that sustains us, that gives direction and content to our lives. We too need access to the Risen one, who sustains us through and beyond death. We need this encounter which brings us together, which gives us space for freedom, which lets us see beyond the bustle of everyday life to God's creative love, from which we come and toward which we are travelling.

Of course, if we listen to today's Gospel, if we listen to what the Lord is saying to us, it frightens us: "Whoever of you does not renounce all that he has and all links with his family cannot be my disciple." We would like to object: What are you saying, Lord? Isn't the family just what the world needs? Doesn't it need the love of father and mother, the love between parents and children, between husband and wife? Don't we need love for life, the joy of life? And don't we also need people who invest in the good things of this world and build up the earth we have received, so that everyone can share in its gifts? Isn't the development of the earth and its goods another charge laid upon us? If we listen to the Lord more closely, if we listen to him in the context of everything he is saying to us, then we understand that Jesus does not demand the same from everyone. Each person has a specific task, to each is assigned a particular way of discipleship. In today's Gospel, Jesus is speaking directly of the specific vocation of the Twelve, a vocation not shared by the many who accompanied Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem. The Twelve must first of all overcome the scandal of the Cross, and then they must be prepared truly to leave everything behind; they must be prepared to assume the seemingly absurd task of travelling to the ends of the earth and, with their minimal education, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a world filled with claims to erudition and with real or apparent education -- and naturally also to the poor and the simple. They must themselves be prepared to suffer martyrdom in the course of their journey into the vast world, and thus to bear witness to the Gospel of the Crucified and Risen Lord. If Jesus's words apply in the first instance to the Twelve, his call naturally extends beyond the historical moment into all subsequent centuries. He calls people of all times to count exclusively on him, to leave everything else behind, so as to be totally available for him, and hence totally available for others: to create oases of selfless love in a world where so often only power and wealth seem to count for anything. Let us thank the Lord for giving us men and women in every century who have left all else behind for his sake, and have thus become radiant signs of his love. We need only think of people like Benedict and Scholastica, Francis and Clare, Elizabeth of Hungary and Hedwig of Silesia, Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, and in our own day, Mother Teresa and Padre Pio. With their whole lives, these people have become a living interpretation of Jesus's teaching, which through their lives becomes close and intelligible to us. Let us ask the Lord to grant to people in our own day the courage to leave everything behind and so to be available to everyone.

Yet if we now turn once more to the Gospel, we realize that the Lord is not speaking merely of a few individuals and their specific task; the essence of what he says applies to everyone. The heart of the matter he expresses elsewhere in these words: "For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?" (Lk 9:24f.). Whoever wants to keep his life just for himself will lose it. Only by giving ourselves do we receive our life. In other words: only the one who loves discovers life. And love always demands going out of oneself, it demands leaving oneself. Anyone who looks just to himself, who wants the other only for himself, will lose both himself and the other. Without this profound losing of oneself, there is no life. The restless craving for life, so widespread among people today, leads to the barrenness of a lost life. "Whoever loses his life for my sake … ", says the Lord: a radical letting-go of our self is only possible if in the process we end up, not by falling into the void, but into the hands of Love eternal. Only the love of God, who loses himself for us and gives himself to us, makes it possible for us also to become free, to let go, and so truly to find life. This is the heart of what the Lord wants to say to us in the seemingly hard words of this Sunday's Gospel. With his teaching he gives us the certainty that we can build on his love, the love of the incarnate God. Recognition of this is the wisdom of which today's reading speaks. Once again, we find that all the world's learning profits us nothing unless we learn to live, unless we discover what truly matters in life.

"Sine dominico non possumus!" Without the Lord and without the day that belongs to him, life does not flourish. Sunday has been transformed in our Western societies into the week-end, into leisure time. Leisure time is certainly something good and necessary, especially amid the mad rush of the modern world. Yet if leisure time lacks an inner focus, an overall sense of direction, then ultimately it becomes wasted time that neither strengthens nor builds us up. Leisure time requires a focus -- the encounter with him who is our origin and goal. My great predecessor in the see of Munich and Freising, Cardinal Faulhaber, once put it like this: Give the soul its Sunday, give Sunday its soul.

Because Sunday is ultimately about encountering the risen Christ in word and sacrament, its span extends through the whole of reality. The early Christians celebrated the first day of the week as the Lord's day, because it was the day of the resurrection. Yet very soon, the Church also came to realize that the first day of the week is the day of the dawning of creation, the day on which God said: "Let there be light" (Gen 1:3). Therefore Sunday is also the Church's weekly feast of creation -- the feast of thanksgiving and joy over God's creation. At a time when creation seems to be endangered in so many ways through human activity, we should consciously advert to this dimension of Sunday too. Then, for the early Church, the first day increasingly assimilated the traditional meaning of the seventh day, the Sabbath. We participate in God's rest, which embraces all of humanity. Thus we sense on this day something of the freedom and equality of all God's creatures.

In this Sunday's Opening Prayer we call to mind firstly that through his Son God has redeemed us and made us his beloved children. Then we ask him to look down with loving-kindness upon all who believe in Christ and to give us true freedom and eternal life. We ask God to look down with loving-kindness. We ourselves need this look of loving-kindness not only on Sunday but beyond, reaching into our everyday lives. As we ask, we know that this loving gaze has already been granted to us. What is more, we know that God has adopted us as his children, he has truly welcomed us into communion with himself. To be someone's child means, as the early Church knew, to be a free person, not a slave but a member of the family. And it means being an heir. If we belong to God, who is the power above all powers, then we are fearless and free. And we are heirs. The inheritance he has bequeathed to us is himself, his love. Yes, Lord, may this inheritance enter deep within our souls so that we come to know the joy of being redeemed. Amen.

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On Loving Jesus as Mary Did
"She Allowed God to Fill Her With Love"

VIENNA, Austria, SEPT. 10, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the German-language address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before reciting the midday Angelus at the Cathedral of St. Stephen.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

It was a particularly beautiful experience this morning to be able to celebrate the Lord's Day with all of you in such a dignified and solemn manner in the magnificent Cathedral of Saint Stephen. The celebration of the Eucharist, carried out with due dignity, helps us to realize the immense grandeur of God's gift to us in the Holy Mass. In this way, we also draw near to each another and experience the joy of God. So I thank all those who, by their active contribution to the preparation of the liturgy or by their recollected participation in the sacred mysteries, created an atmosphere in which we truly felt God's presence. Heartfelt thanks and Vergelt's Gott to all!

In my homily I wished to say something about the meaning of Sunday and about today's Gospel, and I think that this led us to discover that the love of God, who surrendered himself into our hands for our salvation, gives us the inner freedom to let go of our own lives, in order to find true life. Mary's participation in this love gave her the strength to say "yes" unconditionally. In her encounter with the gentle, respectful love of God, who awaits the free cooperation of his creature in order to bring about his saving plan, the Blessed Virgin was able to overcome all hesitation and, in view of this great and unprecedented plan, to entrust herself into his hands. With complete availability, interior openness and freedom, she allowed God to fill her with love, with his Holy Spirit. Mary, the simple woman, could thus receive within herself the Son of God, and give to the world the Saviour who had first given himself to her.

In today's celebration of the Eucharist, the Son of God has also been given to us. Those who have received Holy Communion, in a special way, carry the Risen Lord within themselves. Just as Mary bore him in her womb -- a defenceless little child, totally dependent on the love of his Mother -- so Jesus Christ, under the species of bread, has entrusted himself to us, dear brothers and sisters. Let us love this Jesus who gives himself so completely into our hands! Let us love him as Mary loved him! And let us bring him to others, just as Mary brought him to Elizabeth as the source of joyful exultation! The Virgin gave the Word of God a human body, and thus enabled him to come into the world as a man. Let us give our own bodies to the Lord, and let them become ever more fully instruments of God's love, temples of the Holy Spirit! Let us bring Sunday, and its immense gift, into the world!

Let us ask Mary to teach us how to become, like her, inwardly free, so that in openness to God we may find true freedom, true life, genuine and lasting joy.

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Benedict XVI's Address at Heiligenkreuz Abbey
"All People Have a Yearning for God"

VIENNA, Austria, SEPT. 10, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday when he visited Heiligenkreuz Abbey.

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APOSTOLIC VISIT TO AUSTRIA

Address of the Holy Father
Visit to Heiligenkreuz Abbey
Sunday, 9 September 2007

Most Reverend Father Abbot,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Cistercian Monks of Heiligenkreuz,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Consecrated Life,
Distinguished Guests and Friends of the Monastery and the Academy,
Ladies and Gentlemen!

On my pilgrimage to the Magna Mater Austriae, I am pleased to visit this Abbey of Heiligenkreuz, which is not only an important stop on the Via Sacra leading to Mariazell, but the oldest continuously active Cistercian monastery in the world. I wished to come to this place so rich in history in order to draw attention to the fundamental directive of Saint Benedict, according to whose Rule Cistercians also live. Quite simply, Benedict insisted that "nothing be put before the divine Office".(1)

For this reason, in a monastery of Benedictine spirit, the praise of God, which the monks sing as a solemn choral prayer, always has priority. Monks are certainly not the only people who pray; others also pray: children, the young and the old, men and women, the married and the single -- all Christians pray. Or at least, they should!

In the life of monks, however, prayer takes on a particular importance: it is the heart of their calling. Their vocation is to be men of prayer. In the patristic period the monastic life was likened to the life of the angels. It was considered the essential mark of the angels that they are worshippers. Their very life is worship. This should hold true also for monks. Monks pray first and foremost not for any specific intention, but simply because God is worthy of being praised. "Confitemini Domino, quoniam bonus! -- Praise the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy is eternal!": so we are urged by a number of Psalms (e.g. Ps 106:1). Such prayer for its own sake, intended as pure divine service, is rightly called officium. It is "service" par excellence, the "sacred service" of monks. It is offered to the triune God who, above all else, is worthy "to receive glory, honour and power" (Rev 4:11), because he wondrously created the world and even more wondrously redeemed it.

At the same time, the officium of consecrated persons is also a sacred service to men and women, a testimony offered to them. All people have deep within their hearts, whether they know it or not, a yearning for definitive fulfilment, for supreme happiness, and thus, ultimately, for God. A monastery, in which the community gathers several times a day for the praise of God, testifies to the fact that this primordial human longing does not go unfulfilled: God the Creator has not placed us in a fearful darkness where, groping our way in despair, we seek some ultimate meaning (cf. Acts 17:27); God has not abandoned us in a desert void, bereft of meaning, where in the end only death awaits us. No! God has shone forth in our darkness with his light, with his Son Jesus Christ. In him, God has entered our world in all his "fullness" (cf. Col 1:19); in him all truth, the truth for which we yearn, has its source and summit.(2)

Our light, our truth, our goal, our fulfilment, our life -- all this is not a religious doctrine but a person: Jesus Christ. Over and above any ability of our own to seek and to desire God, we ourselves have already been sought and desired, and indeed, found and redeemed by him! The roving gaze of people of every time and nation, of all the philosophies, religions and cultures, encounters the wide open eyes of the crucified and risen Son of God; his open heart is the fullness of love. The eyes of Christ are the eyes of a loving God. The image of the Crucified Lord above the altar, whose romanesque original is found in the Cathedral of Sarzano, shows that this gaze is turned to every man and woman. The Lord, in truth, looks into the hearts of each of us.

The core of monasticism is worship -- living like the angels. But since monks are people of flesh and blood on this earth, Saint Benedict and Saint Bernardo added to the central command: "pray", a second command: "work". In the mind of Saint Benedict, part of monastic life, along with prayer, is work: the cultivation of the land in accordance with the Creator's will. Thus in every age monks, setting out from their gaze upon God, have made the earth live-giving and lovely. Their protection and renewal of creation derived precisely from their looking to God. In the rhythm of the ora et labora, the community of consecrated persons bears witness to the God who, in Christ, looks upon us, while human beings and the world, as God looks upon them, become good.

Monks are not the only ones who pray the officium; from the monastic tradition the Church has derived the obligation for all religious, and also for priests and deacons, to recite the Breviary. Here too, it is appropriate for men and women religious, priests and deacons -- and naturally Bishops as well -- to come before God in their daily "official" prayer with hymns and psalms, with thanksgiving and pure petition.

Dear brother priests and deacons, dear brothers and sisters in the consecrated life! I realize that discipline is needed, and sometimes great effort as well, in order to recite the Breviary faithfully; but through this officium we also receive many riches: how many times, in doing so, have we seen our weariness and despondency melt away! When God is faithfully praised and worshipped, his blessings are unfailing. In Austria, people rightly say: "Everything depends on God's blessing!".

Your primary service to this world must therefore be your prayer and the celebration of the divine Office. The interior disposition of each priest, and of each consecrated person, must be that of "putting nothing before the divine Office". The beauty of this inner attitude will find expression in the beauty of the liturgy, so that wherever we join in singing, praising, exalting and worshipping God, a little bit of heaven will become present on earth. Truly it would not be presumptuous to say that, in a liturgy completely centred on God, we can see, in its rituals and chant, an image of eternity. Otherwise, how could our forefathers, hundreds of years ago, have built a sacred edifice as solemn as this? Here the architecture itself draws all our senses upwards, towards "what eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined: what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor 2:9). In all our efforts on behalf of the liturgy, the determining factor must always be our looking to God. We stand before God -- he speaks to us and we speak to him. Whenever in our thinking we are only concerned about making the liturgy attractive, interesting and beautiful, the battle is already lost. Either it is Opus Dei, with God as its specific subject, or it is not. In the light of this, I ask you to celebrate the sacred liturgy with your gaze fixed on God within the communion of saints, the living Church of every time and place, so that it will truly be an expression of the sublime beauty of the God who has called men and women to be his friends.

The soul of prayer, ultimately, is the Holy Spirit. Whenever we pray, it is he who "helps us in our weakness, interceding for us with sighs too deep for words" (Rom 8:26). Trusting in these words of the Apostle Paul, I assure you, dear brothers and sisters, that prayer will produce in you the same effect which once led to the custom of calling priests and consecrated persons simply "spirituals" (Geistliche). Bishop Sailer of Regensburg once said that priests should be first and foremost spiritual persons. I would like to see a revival of the word "Geistliche". More importantly, though, the content of that word should become a part of our lives: namely, that in following the Lord, we become, by the power of the Spirit, "spiritual" men and women.

Austria (Österreich) is, in an old play on words, truly Klösterreich: a realm of monasteries and a land rich in monasteries. Your ancient abbeys whose origins and traditions date back many centuries are places where "God is put first". Dear friends, make this priority given to God ever more apparent to people! As a spiritual oasis, a monastery reminds today's world of the most important, and indeed, the only decisive thing: that there is an ultimate reason why life is worth living: God and his unfathomable love.

And I ask you, dear members of the faithful: see your abbeys and monasteries for what they are and always wish to be: not mere strongholds of culture and tradition, or even simple business enterprises. Structure, organization and finances are necessary in the Church too, but they are not what is essential. A monastery is above all this: a place of spiritual power. Coming to one of your monasteries here in Austria, we have the same impression as when, after a strenuous hike in the Alps, we finally find refreshment at a clear mountain spring… Take advantage of these springs of God's closeness in your country; treasure the religious communities, the monasteries and abbeys; and make use of the spiritual service that consecrated person are willing to offer you!

Finally, I have come also to visit the Academy, now the Pontifical Academy, which is 205 years old and which, in its new status, the Abbot has named after the present Successor of Peter. Important though it is that the discipline of theology be part of the universitas of knowledge through the presence of Catholic theological faculties in state universities, it is equally important that there should be academic institutions like your own, where there can be a deeper interplay between scientific theology and lived spirituality. God is never simply the "object" of theology; he is always its living "subject" as well. Christian theology, for that matter, is never a purely human discourse about God, but always, and inseparably, the logos and "logic" of God's self-revelation. For this reason scientific rationality and lived devotion are two necessarily complementary and interdependent aspects of study.

The father of the Cistercian Order, Saint Bernard, in his own day fought against the detachment of an objectivizing rationality from the main current of ecclesial spirituality. Our situation today, while different, nonetheless has notable similarities. In its desire to be recognized as a rigorously scientific discipline in the modern sense, theology can lose the life-breath given by faith. But just as a liturgy which no longer looks to God is already in its death throes, so too a theology which no longer draws its life-breath from faith ceases to be theology; it ends up as a array of more or less loosely connected disciplines. But where theology is practised "on bent knee", as Hans Urs von Balthasar (3) urged, it will prove fruitful for the Church in Austria and beyond.

This fruitfulness is shown through fostering and forming those who have vocations to the priesthood or the religious life. Today, if such a vocation is to be sustained faithfully over a lifetime, there is a need for a formation capable of integrating faith and reason, heart and mind, life and thought. A life devoted to following Christ calls for an integration of one's entire personality. Neglect of the intellectual dimension can give rise all too easily to a kind of superficial piety nourished mostly by emotions and sentiments, which cannot be sustained over a lifetime. Neglect of the spiritual dimension, in turn, can create a rarified rationalism which, in its coldness and detachment, can never bring about an enthusiastic self-surrender to God. A life devoted to following Christ cannot be built on such one-sided foundations; half-measures leave a person unhappy and, consequently, also spiritually barren. Each vocation to the religious life or to the priesthood is a treasure so precious that those responsible for it should do everything possible to ensure a formation which promotes both fides et ratio -- faith and reason, heart and mind.

At the advice of his son, Blessed Otto of Freising, who was my predecessor in the episcopal see of Freising, Saint Leopold of Austria founded your abbey in 1133, and called it Unsere Liebe Frau zum Heiligen Kreuz -- Our Lady of Holy Cross. This monastery is dedicated to Our Lady not simply by tradition -- like every Cistercian monastery --, but among you there burns the Marian flame of a Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. Bernard, who entered the monastery along with thirty of his companions, is a kind of patron saint of vocations. Perhaps it was because of his particular devotion to Our Lady that he exercised such a compelling and infectious influence on his many young contemporaries called by God. Where Mary is, there is the archetype of total self-giving and Christian discipleship. Where Mary is, there is the pentecostal breath of the Holy Spirit; there is new beginning and authentic renewal.

From this Marian sanctuary on the Via Sacra, I pray that all Austria's shrines will experience fruitfulness and further growth. Here, as at Mariazell, I would like, before leaving, to ask the Mother of God once more to intercede for all of Austria. In the words of Saint Bernard, I invite everyone to become a trusting child before Mary, even as the Son of God did: "Look to the star of the sea, call upon Mary … in danger, in distress, in doubt, think of Mary, call upon Mary. May her name never be far from your lips, or far from your heart … If you follow her, you will not stray; if you pray to her, you will not despair; if you turn your thoughts to her, you will not err. If she holds you, you will not fall; if she protects you, you need not fear; if she is your guide, you will not tire; if she is gracious to you, you will surely reach your destination". (4)

(1) Regula Benedicti 43,3.

(2) Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Gaudium et Spes, 22.

(3) Cf. HANS URS VON BALTHASAR, Theologie und Heiligkeit, an essay written in 1948, in Verbum Caro. Schriften zur Theologie I, Einsiedeln, 1960, 195-224.

(4) BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX, In laudibus Virginis Matris, Homilia 2, 17.

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Papal Address at Vespers
A Reflection on the Evangelical Counsels

VIENNA, Austria, SEPT. 10, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's Saturday address at the celebration of vespers at the Shrine of Mariazell.

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VESPERS WITH PRIESTS, RELIGIOUS, DEACONS AND SEMINARIANS
ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Shrine of Mariazell
Saturday, 8 September 2007

Venerable and dear Brothers in the Priestly Ministry,
Dear Men and Women of Consecrated Life,
Dear Friends,

We have come together in the venerable Basilica of our Magna Mater Austriae in Mariazell. For many generations people have come to pray here to obtain the help of the Mother of God. We too are doing the same today. We want to join Mary in praising God's immense goodness and in expressing our gratitude to the Lord for all the blessings we have received, especially the great gift of the faith. We also wish to commend to Mary our heartfelt concerns: to beg her protection for the Church, to invoke her intercession for the gift of worthy vocations for Dioceses and religious communities, to implore her assistance for families and her merciful prayers for all those longing for freedom from sin and for the grace of conversion, and, finally, to entrust to Mary's maternal care our sick and our elderly. May the great Mother of Austria and of Europe bring all of us to a profound renewal of faith and life!

Dear friends, as priests, and as men and women religious, you are servants of the mission of Jesus Christ. Just as two thousand years ago Jesus called people to follow him, today too young men and women are setting out at his call, attracted by him and moved by a desire to devote their lives to serving the Church and helping others. They have the courage to follow Christ, and they want to be his witnesses. Being a follower of Christ is full of risks, since we are constantly threatened by sin, lack of freedom and defection. Consequently, we all need his grace, just as Mary received it in its fullness. We learn to look always, like Mary, to Christ, and to make him our criterion and measure. Thus we can participate in the universal saving mission of the Church, of which he is the head. The Lord calls priests, religious and lay people to go into the world, in all its complexity, and to cooperate in the building up of God's Kingdom. They do this in a great variety of ways: in preaching, in building communities, in the different pastoral ministries, in the practical exercise of charity, in research and scientific study carried out in an apostolic spirit, in dialogue with the surrounding culture, in promoting the justice willed by God and, in no less measure, in the recollected contemplation of the triune God and the common praise of God in their communities.

The Lord invites you to join the Church "on her pilgrim way through history". He is inviting you to become pilgrims with him and to share in his life which today too includes both the way of the Cross and the way of the Risen One through the Galilee of our existence. But he remains always one and the same Lord who, through the one Baptism, calls us to the one faith. Taking part in his journey thus means both things: the dimension of the Cross -- with failure, suffering, misunderstanding and even contempt and persecution -- , but also the experience of profound joy in his service and of the great consolation born of an encounter with him. Like the Church, individual parishes, communities and all baptized Christians find in their experience of the crucified and risen Christ the source of their mission.

At the heart of the mission of Jesus Christ and of every Christian is the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. Proclaiming the Kingdom in the name of Christ means for the Church, for priests, men and women religious, and for all the baptized, a commitment to be present in the world as his witnesses. The Kingdom of God is really God himself, who makes himself present in our midst and reigns through us. The Kingdom of God is built up when God lives in us and we bring God into the world. You do so when you testify to a "meaning" rooted in God's creative love and opposed to every kind of meaninglessness and despair. You stand alongside all those who are earnestly striving to discover this meaning, alongside all those who want to make something positive of their lives. By your prayer and intercession, you are the advocates of all who seek God, who are journeying towards God. You bear witness to a hope which, against every form of hopelessness, silent or spoken, points to the fidelity and the loving concern of God. Hence you are on the side of those who are crushed by misfortune and cannot break free of their burdens. You bear witness to that Love which gives itself for humanity and thus conquered death. You are on the side of all who have never known love, and who are no longer able to believe in life. And so you stand against all forms of injustice, hidden or apparent, and against a growing contempt for man. In this way, dear brothers and sisters, your whole life needs to be, like that of John the Baptist, a great, living witness to Jesus Christ, the Son of God incarnate. Jesus called John "a burning and shining lamp" (Jn 5:35). You too must be such lamps! Let your light shine in our society, in political and economic life, in culture and research. Even if it is only a flicker amid so many deceptive lights, it nonetheless draws its power and splendour from the great Morning Star, the Risen Christ, whose light shines brilliantly -- wants to shine brilliantly through us -- and will never fade.

Following Christ -- we want to follow him -- following Christ means taking on ever more fully his mind and his way of life; this is what the Letter to the Philippians tells us: "Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ!" (cf. 2:5). "To Look to Christ" is the theme of these days. In looking to him, the great Teacher of life, the Church has discerned three striking features of Jesus' basic attitude. These three features -- with the Tradition we call them the "evangelical counsels" -- have become the distinctive elements of a life committed to the radical following of Christ: poverty, chastity and obedience. Let us reflect now briefly on them.

Jesus Christ, who was rich with the very richness of God, became poor for our sake, as Saint Paul tells us in the Second Letter to the Corinthians (cf. 8:9); this is an unfathomable statement, one to which we should always return for further reflection. And in the Letter to the Philippians we read: He emptied himself; he humbled himself and became obedient even to death on a Cross (cf. 2:6ff.) The one who himself became poor, called the poor "blessed". Saint Luke, in his version of the Beatitudes, makes us understand that this statement -- calling the poor blessed -- certainly refers to the poor, the truly poor, in Israel at that time, where a sharp distinction existed between rich and poor. But Saint Matthew, in his version of the Beatitudes, explains to us that material poverty alone is not enough to ensure God's closeness, since the heart can be hard and filled with lust for riches. Matthew -- like all of Scripture -- lets us understand that in any case God is particularly close to the poor. So it becomes evident: in the poor Christians see the Christ who awaits them, who awaits their commitment. Anyone who wants to follow Christ in a radical way must renounce material goods. But he or she must live this poverty in a way centred on Christ, as a means of becoming inwardly free for their neighbour. For all Christians, but especially for us priests, and for religious, both as individuals and in community, the issue of poverty and the poor must be the object of a constant and serious examination of conscience. In our own situation, in which we are not badly off, we are not poor, I think that we ought to reflect particularly on how we can live out this calling in a sincere way. I would like to recommend it for your -- for our -- examination of conscience.

To understand correctly the meaning of chastity, we must start with its positive content. Once again, we find this only by looking to Christ. Jesus' life had a two-fold direction: he lived for the Father and for others. In sacred Scripture we see Jesus as a man of prayer, one who spends entire nights in dialogue with the Father. Through his prayer, he made his own humanity, and the humanity of us all, part of his filial relation to the Father. This dialogue with the Father thus became a constantly-renewed mission to the world, to us. Jesus' mission led him to a pure and unreserved commitment to men and women. Sacred Scripture shows that at no moment of his life did he betray even the slightest trace of self-interest or selfishness in his relationship with others. Jesus loved others in the Father, starting from the Father -- and thus he loved them in their true being, in their reality. Entering into these sentiments of Jesus Christ -- in this total communion with the living God and in this completely pure communion with others, unreservedly at their disposition -- this entering into the mind of Christ inspired in Paul a theology and a way of life consonant with Jesus' words about celibacy for the Kingdom of heaven (cf. Mt 19:12). Priests and religious are not aloof from interpersonal relationships. Chastity, on the contrary, means -- and this is where I wished to start -- an intense relationship; it is, positively speaking, a relationship with the living Christ and, on the basis of that, with the Father. Consequently, by the vow of celibate chastity we do not consecrate ourselves to individualism or a life of isolation; instead, we solemnly promise to put completely and unreservedly at the service of God's Kingdom -- and thus at the service of others - the deep relationships of which we are capable and which we receive as a gift. In this way priests and religious become men and women of hope: staking everything on God and thus showing that God for them is something real, they open up a space for his presence -- the presence of God's Kingdom -- in our world. Dear priests and religious, you have an important contribution to make: amid so much greed, possessiveness, consumerism and the cult of the individual, we strive to show selfless love for men and women. We are living lives of hope, a hope whose fulfilment we leave in God's hands, because we believe that he will fulfil it. What might have happened had the history of Christianity lacked such outstanding figures and examples? What would our world be like, if there were no priests, if there were no men and women in religious congregations and communities of consecrated life -- people whose lives testify to the hope of a fulfilment beyond every human desire and an experience of the love of God which transcends all human love? Precisely today, the world needs our witness.

We now come to obedience. Jesus lived his entire life, from the hidden years in Nazareth to the very moment of his death on the Cross in listening to the Father, in obedience to the Father. We see this in an exemplary way at Gethsemane. "Not my will, but yours be done". In this prayer Jesus takes up into his filial will the stubborn resistance of us all, and transforms our rebelliousness into his obedience. Jesus was a man of prayer. But at the same time he was also someone who knew how to listen and to obey: he became "obedient unto death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:8). Christians have always known from experience that, in abandoning themselves to the will of the Father, they lose nothing, but instead discover in this way their deepest identity and interior freedom. In Jesus they have discovered that those who lose themselves find themselves, and those who bind themselves in an obedience grounded in God and inspired by the search for God, become free. Listening to God and obeying him has nothing to do with external constraint and the loss of oneself. Only by entering into God's will do we attain our true identity. Our world today needs the testimony of this experience precisely because of its desire for "self-realization" and "self-determination".

Romano Guardini relates in his autobiography how, at a critical moment on his journey, when the faith of his childhood was shaken, the fundamental decision of his entire life -- his conversion -- came to him through an encounter with the saying of Jesus that only the one who loses himself finds himself (cf. Mk 8:34ff.; Jn 12:25); without self-surrender, without self-loss, there can be no self-discovery or self-realization. But then the question arose: to what extent it is proper to lose myself? To whom can I give myself? It became clear to him that we can surrender ourselves completely only if by doing so we fall into the hands of God. Only in him, in the end, can we lose ourselves and only in him can we find ourselves. But then the question arose: Who is God? Where is God? Then he came to understand that the God to whom we can surrender ourselves is alone the God who became tangible and close to us in Jesus Christ. But once more the question arose: Where do I find Jesus Christ? How can I truly give myself to him? The answer Guardini found after much searching was this: Jesus is concretely present to us only in his Body, the Church. As a result, obedience to God's will, obedience to Jesus Christ, must be, really and practically, humble obedience to the Church. I think that this too is something calling us to a constant and deep examination of conscience. It is all summed up in the prayer of Saint Ignatius of Loyola -- a prayer which always seems to me so overwhelming that I am almost afraid to say it, yet one which, for all its difficulty, we should always repeat: "Take O Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will. All that I have and all that I possess you have given me: I surrender it all to you; it is all yours, dispose of it according to your will. Give me only your love and your grace; with these I will be rich enough and will desire nothing more".

Dear brothers and sisters! You are about to return to those places where you live and carry out your ecclesial, pastoral, spiritual and human activity. May Mary, our great Advocate and Mother, watch over and protect you and your work. May she intercede for you with her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. I thank you for your prayers and your labours in the Lord's vineyard, and I join you in praying that God will protect and bless all of you, and everyone, particularly the young people, both here in Austria and in the various countries from which many of you have come. With affection I accompany all of you with my blessing.

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Pope's Address to Austrian Volunteer associations
"God Wants Persons Who Love Together With Him"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 11, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI's gave Sunday at a meeting with Austrian volunteers in Vienna.

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Wiener Konzerthaus, Vienna
Sunday, 9 September 2007

Mr President,
Archbishop Kothgasser,
Dear Volunteers and Honorary Members
of the different Charitable Agencies in Austria,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
and above all: Dear young friends,

I have looked forward with particular joy to this meeting, which takes place near the end of my visit to Austria. And naturally there is the further joy of having heard not only a marvellous piece by Mozart, but also, unexpectedly, the "Vienna Choir Boys". Heartfelt thanks! It is good to meet people who are trying to give a face to the Gospel message in our communities; to see people, young and old, who concretely express in Church and society the love which we, as Christians, must be overwhelmed: the love of God which enables us to see others as our neighbours, our brothers and sisters! I am filled with gratitude and admiration when I think of the generous volunteer work done in this country by so many people of all ages. To all of you, and to those who hold honorary and unremunerated positions in Austria, I would like today to express my special appreciation. I thank you, Mr. President, you, Archbishop Kothgasser, and, above all, you, the young people representing volunteer workers in Austria, for your beautiful and profound words of greeting.

Thanks be to God, many people consider it an honour to engage in volunteer service to individuals, groups and organizations, or to respond to specific needs concerning the common good. This kind of involvement is first of all an occasion for personal growth and for active and responsible participation in the life of society. The willingness to take up volunteer work can have various motivations. Frequently it is simply born of a desire to do something meaningful and helpful, and out of a desire for new experiences. Young people rightly and naturally also discover in volunteer work a source of joy, positive experiences and genuine camaraderie in carrying out a worthwhile project alongside others. Often these personal ideas and initiatives are linked to a practical love of neighbour; the individual thus becomes part of a wider community of support. I would like to express my gratitude and heartfelt thanks for the remarkable "culture of volunteerism" existing in Austria. I wish to thank every woman and every man, all the young people and all the children -- the volunteer work carried out by children is at times impressive; we need only think of the activity of the Sternsinger at Christmastime; you, dear Archbishop, have already mentioned this. I would also like to express gratitude for the efforts, large and small, which often go unnoticed. Thank you and Vergelt's Gott [May God reward you!] for your contribution to building a "civilization of love" at the service of everyone and the betterment of the nation. Love of neighbour is not something that can be delegated; the State and the political order, even with their necessary concern for the provision of social services, -- as you, Mr President, have said -- cannot take its place. Love of neighbour always demands a voluntary personal commitment, and the State, of course, can and must provide the conditions which make this possible. Thanks to such involvement, assistance maintains a human dimension and does not become depersonalized. Volunteers like yourselves, then, are not "stopgaps" in the social fabric, but people who truly contribute to giving our society a humane and Christian face.

Young people especially long to have their abilities and talents "awakened and discovered". Volunteers want to be asked, they want to be told: "I need you" -- "You can do it!" How good it feels to hear words like these! In their human simplicity, they unwittingly point us to the God who has called each of us into being and given us a personal task, the God who needs each of us and awaits our response. Jesus called men and women, and gave them the courage needed to embark on a great undertaking, one to which, by themselves, they would never have dared to aspire. To allow oneself to be called, to make a decision and then to set out on a path -- without the usual questions about whether it is useful or profitable - this attitude will naturally bring healing in its wake. The saints have shown us this path by their lives. It is a fascinating and thrilling path, a path of generosity and, nowadays, one which is much needed. To say "yes" to volunteering to help others is a decision which is liberating; it opens our hearts to the needs of others, to the requirements of justice, to the defence of life and the protection of creation. Volunteer work is really about the heart of the Christian image of God and man: love of God and love of neighbour.

Dear Volunteers, Ladies and Gentlemen. Volunteer work reflects gratitude for, and the desire to share with others, the love that we ourselves have received. In the words of the fourteenth-century theologian Duns Scotus,[1] Deus vult condiligentes -- God wants persons who love together with him. Seen in this light, unremunerated service has much to do with God's grace. A culture which would calculate the cost of everything, forcing human relationships into a strait jacket of rights and duties, is able to realize, thanks to the countless people who freely donate their time and service to others, that life is an unmerited gift. For all the many different or even contradictory reasons which motivate people to volunteer their services, all are ultimately based on a profound solidarity born of "gratuitousness". It was as a free gift that we received life from our Creator, it was as a free gift that we were set free from the blind alley of sin and evil, it was as a free gift that we were given the Spirit with his many gifts. In my Encyclical I wrote: "Love is free; it is not practised as a way of achieving other ends".[2] "Those who are in a position to help others will realize that in doing so they themselves receive help; being able to help others is no merit or achievement of their own. This duty is a grace".[3] By our commitment to volunteer work, we freely pass on what we ourselves have received. This "inner logic" of gratuitousness goes beyond strict moral obligation.

Without volunteer service, society and the common good could not, cannot and will not endure. A readiness to be at the service of others is something which surpasses the calculus of outlay and return: it shatters the rules of a market economy. The value of human beings cannot be judged by purely economic criteria. Without volunteers, then, no state can be built up. A society's progress and worth constantly depend on people who do more than what is strictly their duty.

Ladies and Gentlemen! Volunteer work is a service to human dignity, inasmuch as men and women are created in the image and likeness of God. As Irenaeus of Lyons, in the second century, said: "The glory of God is the living man, and the life of man is the vision of God".[4] And Nicholas of Cusa, in his treatise on the vision of God went on to develop this insight: "Since the eye is where love is found, I know that you love me… Your gaze, O Lord, is love…. By gazing upon me, you, the hidden God, enable me to catch a glimpse of you… Your gaze bestows life… Your gaze is creative".[5] God's gaze -- the gaze of Jesus fills us with God's love. Some ways of looking at others can be meaningless or even contemptuous. There are looks that reveal esteem and express love. Volunteer workers have regard for others; they remind us of the dignity of every human being and they awaken enthusiasm and hope. Volunteer workers are guardians and advocates of human rights and human dignity.

Jesus' gaze is connected with another way of seeing others. In the Gospel the words: "He saw him and passed by" are said of the priest and the Levite who see the man lying half-dead on the wayside, yet do not come to his help (Lk 10:31-2). There are people who see, but pretend not to see, who are faced with human needs yet remain indifferent. This is part of the coldness of our present time. In the gaze of others, and particularly of the person who needs our help, we experience the concrete demands of Christian love. Jesus Christ does not teach us a spirituality "of closed eyes", but one of "alertness", one which entails an absolute duty to take notice of the needs of others and of situations involving those whom the Gospel tells us are our neighbours. The gaze of Jesus, what "his eyes" teach us, leads to human closeness, solidarity, giving time, sharing our gifts and even our material goods. For this reason, "those who work for the Church's charitable organizations must be distinguished by the fact that they do not merely meet the needs of the moment, -- as important as this is -- but they dedicate themselves to others with heartfelt concern… This heart sees where love is needed, and acts accordingly".[6] Yes, "I have to become like someone in love, someone whose heart is open to being shaken up by another's need. Then I find my neighbour or -- better -- then I am found by him".[7]

Finally, the commandment of love for God and neighbour (cf. Mt 22:37-40; Lk 10:27) reminds us that it is through our love of neighbour that we Christians honour God himself. Archbishop Kothgasser has already quoted the saying of Jesus: "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25:40). If Jesus himself is present in the concrete man or woman whom we encounter, then unremunerated service can bring us to an experience of God. Sharing in human situations and needs leads to a "new" and meaningful kind of togetherness. In this way, volunteer work can help bring people out of their isolation and make them part of a community.

To conclude, I would like to mention the power of prayer and its importance for everyone engaged in charitable work. Praying to God sets us free from ideologies or a sense of hopelessness in the face of endless needs. "Even in their bewilderment and failure to understand the world about them, Christians continue to believe in the ‘goodness and loving kindness of God' (Tit 3:4). Immersed like everyone else in the dramatic complexity of historical events, they remain unshakably certain that God is our Father and loves us, even when his silence remains incomprehensible".[8]

Dear members and volunteer workers of charitable organizations in Austria, Ladies and Gentlemen! Whenever people do more than their simple duty in professional life and in the family -- and even doing this well calls for great strength and much love -- , and whenever they commit themselves to helping others, putting their precious free time at the service of man and his dignity, their hearts expand. Volunteers do not understand the term "neighbour" in the literal meaning of the word; for them, it includes those who are far away, those who are loved by God, and those who, with our help, need to experience the work of redemption accomplished by Christ. The other, whom the Gospel calls our "neighbour", thus becomes our privileged partner as we face the pressures and constraints of the world in which we live. Anyone who takes seriously the "priority" of his neighbour lives and acts in accordance with the Gospel and shares in the mission of the Church, which always looks at the whole person and wants everyone to experience the love of God. Dear volunteers, the Church fully supports your service. I am convinced that the volunteers of Austria will continue to be a source of great blessing and I assure you of my prayers. Upon all of you I invoke the joy of the Lord which is our strength (cf. Neh 8:10). May God in his goodness be ever close to you and guide you constantly by the help of his grace.

[1] Opus Oxoniense III d. 32 q. 1 n. 6.

[2] BENEDICT XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 31.

[3] Ibid., 35.

[4] Adversus Haereses IV, 20, 7.

[5] De visione Dei / Die Gottesschau, in Philosophisch-Theologische Schriften, hg. und endgef. von Leo Gabriel, übersetzt von Dietlind und Wilhelm Dupré, Wien, 1967, Bd. III, 105-111.

[6] BENEDICT XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 31.

[7] JOSEPH RATZINGER / BENEDICT XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, New York, 2007, p. 194.

[8] BENEDICT XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 38.

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Papal Farewell to Austria
"Gratitude and Joy Fill My Heart at This Moment"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 11, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's address delivered Sunday at the international airport of Vienna as he left Austria.

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International Airport of Vienna/Schwechat
Sunday, 9 September 2007

Mr President,

As I prepare to leave Austria at the conclusion of my pilgrimage for the 850th anniversary of the National Shrine of Mariazell, I recall with gratitude these days filled with memorable experiences. I feel that I have come to know even better this beautiful country and its people.

I offer heartfelt thanks to my Brother Bishops, to the Government, to the public authorities and, not least, to the many volunteers who assisted in the organization of this visit. I pray that you will share richly in the graces we have received in these days. My warm, personal thanks go in particular to you, Mr President, for your gracious words of farewell, for having accompanied me on this pilgrimage, and for all the attention you have shown me. Thank you!

Once again I was able to experience Mariazell as a particularly grace-filled place, a place which in these days welcomed all of us and gave us inner strength for the road ahead. The throngs of people who joined in our celebration in the Basilica, in Mariazell itself and throughout Austria should inspire us, with Mary, to look to Christ and, as persons whom God looks upon with love, and to face with confidence the path to the future. It was nice that the wind and the bad weather could not stop us, but, in the end, added even more to our joy.

At the very beginning of my pilgrimage, our common prayer in the Square "Am Hof" brought us together in a way which transcended national borders and directly showed us Austria's open hospitality, which is one of this country's finest qualities.

May the quest for mutual understanding, and the creative development of ever new ways of building trust between individuals and peoples, continue to inspire the national and international policies of this nation. Vienna, faithful to its rich history and its location in the vital centre of Europe, can offer a specific contribution in this regard, by consistently upholding the traditional values of the continent, values shaped by the Christian faith, to the European institutions and to the work of promoting international, intercultural and interreligious relations.

On life's pilgrimage we frequently pause to consider with gratitude the progress already made, and to look with prayerful hope at the road still before us. I made just such a stop at the monastery of Heiligenkreuz. The tradition cultivated there by the Cistercian monks puts us in touch with our roots, whose strength and beauty ultimately derive from God himself.

Today I was able to celebrate Sunday, the Lord's Day with you -- representing all the parishes of Austria -- in the Cathedral of Saint Stephen. This gave me an opportunity to be united in a special way with the faithful in all the parishes of Austria.

Finally, a very moving moment for me was my meeting with volunteers from the charitable organizations which are so many and varied in Austria. The thousands of volunteers I was able to see represent the many thousands more who, throughout the country, by their readiness to help others, show forth humanity's noblest features and help believers to recognize the love of Christ.

Gratitude and joy fill my heart at this moment. To all of you who have been with me during these days, to all who put so much effort and hard work into making this very full programme proceed so smoothly, and to all who joined in my pilgrimage and shared in our celebrations, I once more express my deep gratitude. As I leave you, I entrust the present and the future of this country to the intercession of the Gracious Mother of Mariazell, Magna Mater Austriae, and to all the saints and beati of Austria. With them we want to look to Christ, our life and our hope. With great affection I offer to one and all a sincere "Vergelt's Gott"!

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Wednesday's Audience:  On the Trip to Austria
"Above All It Was a Pilgrimage"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 12, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square. The Holy Father reflected on his recent pastoral visit to Austria.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I intend to focus on the pastoral visit that I had the joy of making a few days ago to Austria, a country that is especially familiar to me, because it borders my native land and because of the numerous contacts that I have always had with it. The specific motive for this visit was the 850th anniversary of the Shrine of Mariazell, the most important in Austria, favored also by the faithful in Hungary and visited by pilgrims of other neighboring nations.

Above all it was a pilgrimage, which had as its theme "To Look to Christ": to meet Mary who shows Jesus to us. I offer my heartfelt thanks to Cardinal Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, and all of the Austrian bishops for the great effort with which they prepared and followed my visit. I thank the Austrian government and all of the civil and military authorities who offered their valuable cooperation. In a special way, I would like to thank the president for the cordiality with which he welcomed and accompanied me during various moments of the trip.

The first stop was Mariensaule, the historic column upon which stands the statue of the Immaculate Virgin. There I met with thousands of young people and I began my pilgrimage. I did not miss the chance to go to Judenplatz to render homage to the monument that commemorates the Shoah.

Aware of Austria’s history and its close ties with the Holy See, as well as Vienna’s important role in international politics, the program of my pastoral visit included meetings with the president of the republic and the diplomatic corps. These are valuable opportunities, in which the Successor of Peter has the chance to exhort the leaders of nations to favor the cause of peace and authentic economic and social development.

Focusing on Europe, I renewed my encouragement to go forward with the current process of unification on the basis of values inspired by its shared Christian heritage. Mariazell, in the end, is one of the symbols of the meeting in faith of European peoples. How can we forget that Europe bears a tradition of thought that holds together faith, reason and sentiment? Illustrious philosophers, even outside the faith, recognized the central role of Christianity in preserving the modern conscience from nihilistic or fundamentalist derivatives. Given the current situation of the European continent it was therefore favorable to make time for the meeting with the political and diplomatic leaders in Vienna.

I carried out the actual pilgrimage on Saturday, Sept. 8, feast of the Nativity of Mary, from whom Mariazell takes its name. Its origins go back to 1157, when a Benedictine monk from the nearby Abbey of St. Lambrecht, sent to preach there, experienced the special help of Mary. The monk carried a small wooden statue of Mary. The cell ("zell") where the monk placed the statue later became a place of pilgrimage and upon which, over the last two centuries, an important shrine was built, where Our Lady of Grace, so-called Magna Mater Austriae, is venerated still today.

It was a great joy for me to return as the Successor of Peter to that holy place, so dear to the people of Central and Eastern Europe. There I admired the exemplary courage of thousands and thousands of pilgrims who, despite the rain and cold, wanted to be present for this festive occurrence, with great joy and faith, and where I explained to them the central theme of my visit: "To Look to Christ," a theme that the Austrian bishops wisely elaborated on during the nine-month period of preparations.

It was only when we reached the shrine that we fully understood the full sense of that theme: to look to Christ. Before us was the statue of Our Lady that with one hand pointed to the Baby Jesus, and above her, above the basilica’s altar, the Crucified One. There our pilgrimage reached its goal: We contemplated the face of God in that Child in the arms of his Mother and in that Man with the outstretched arms. To look at Jesus with the eyes of Mary means to meet God who is Love, who was made man and died on a cross for us.

At the end of the Mass in Mariazell, I conferred a "mandate" to members of the parish pastoral councils, which have recently been renewed in all of Austria -- an eloquent ecclesiastical gesture with which I placed under Mary’s protection the great network of parishes that are at the service of communion and mission.

At the shrine I experienced joyous moments of fraternity with the bishops of the country and the Benedictine community. I met with priests, religious, deacons and seminarians and celebrated vespers with them. Spiritually united to Mary, we magnified the Lord for the humble devotion of many men and women who trust in his mercy and consecrate themselves to God’s service. These people, despite their human limitations, or rather, in the simplicity and humility of their humanity, work to offer to all a reflection of the goodness and beauty of God, following Jesus on the path of poverty, chastity and obedience, three vows that must be well understood in their true Christological meaning, not individualistic but relational and ecclesial.

Sunday morning I celebrated the solemn Eucharist in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. In the homily, I wanted to elaborate on the meaning and value of Sunday, in support of the movement "Alliance in Defense of a Free Sunday." Many non-Christian people and groups belong to this movement. As believers, naturally, we have deep motives for living the Day of the Lord, as the Church has taught us: "Sine dominico non possumus!" Without the Lord and without his Day we cannot live, declared the martyrs of Abitene (present-day Tunisia) in the year 304.

We too, we Christians of the 21st century, cannot live without Sunday: A day that gives meaning to work and rest, fulfills the meaning of creation and redemption, expresses the value of freedom and the service of our neighbor … all of this is Sunday -- much more than just a precept! If the populations of ancient Christian civilizations had abandoned this meaning and let Sunday be reduced to a weekend or an opportunity for mundane and commercial interests, it would have meant that they had decided to renounce their very culture.

Not far from Vienna is the Abbey of "Heiligenkreuz," of the Holy Cross, and it was a joy for me to visit that flowering community of Cistercian monks, that have existed for 874 years without interruption! Annexed to the abbey is the High Academy of Philosophy and Theology, which has recently been granted the "Pontifical" title. In speaking with the monks, I recalled the great teaching of St. Benedict on the Divine Office, underlining the value of prayer as a service of praise and adoration due to God for his infinite beauty and goodness.

Nothing should come before this sacred service -- says the Benedictine Rule (43:3) -- so that all of life, with its times for work and rest, will be recapitulated in the liturgy and oriented toward God. Even theological study cannot be separated from the spiritual life and the life of prayer, as St. Bernard of Clairvaux, father of the Cistercian order, so strongly maintained. The presence of the Academy of Theology next to the abbey shows this union between faith and reason, between heart and mind.

The last meeting of my trip was with the network of volunteer organizations. I wanted to show my appreciation to the many people, of all ages, who work freely in service of their neighbor, in the ecclesial community as well as in the civil community.

Volunteering is not only "doing": It is first of all a way of being, which begins in the heart, from a grateful way of viewing life, and it encourages us to "give back" and share the gifts we have received with our neighbor. In this perspective, I wanted to encourage yet again the culture of charity work.

Volunteer work should not be seen as "stopgap" assistance with regard to state and public institutions, but rather as a complimentary and always necessary presence to keep attentive to the most marginalized in society and to promote a personalized style in the assistance programs. Furthermore, there is no one who cannot be a volunteer. Surely even the most needy and disadvantaged person has much to share with others by offering his own contribution to building a civilization of love.

In conclusion, I renew my thanksgiving to the Lord for this visit-pilgrimage to Austria. The focal point was yet again a Marian shrine, in which I was able to live a strong ecclesial experience, as I did the week before in Loreto with the Italian youth. Moreover, in Vienna and Mariazell, it has been possible to see the living, faithful and varied reality of the Catholic Church, so numerously present in the scheduled events.

It was a joyful and radiant presence of a Church that, like Mary, is called to always "look to Christ" in order to show and offer him to everyone; a Church that is teacher and witness of a generous "yes" to life in each of its dimensions; a Church that carries out its 2,000-year tradition at the service of a future of peace and true social progress for the entire human family.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[After the audience, the Pope greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

My recent Pastoral Visit to Austria was above all a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Mariazell on its 850th anniversary. The venerable statue of Our Lady pointing to her infant Son inspired the theme of the visit -- To Look to Christ. Austria is a land of ancient Christian culture, and its capital, Vienna, is today a centre of international institutions. In my meeting with the President and the Diplomatic Corps I expressed the Church’s support for global efforts to foster peace and authentic development, and I encouraged the process of Europe’s unification on the basis of values inspired by its shared Christian heritage. At Mass in Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, I stressed the importance of respecting the rich religious and cultural meaning of our tradition of Sunday rest. While visiting Heiligenkreuz Abbey I spoke of the value of monasticism and liturgical prayer, and the inseparable link between theology and the spiritual life. At the end of my journey, I met with representatives of Austria’s impressive network of volunteer organizations and expressed appreciation for their generosity to others. Throughout my visit, I saw the vitality of the Church, which, in today’s Europe, is called "to look to Christ" ever anew, as she carries out her mission in service of the Gospel and the true progress of the human family.

I am pleased to welcome the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from England, Wales, Scotland, Denmark, Sweden, Malta and the United States. Upon all of you I cordially invoke joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

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                                         Commentary

"Where God is, there is the future" | On Benedict XVI in Austria | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. | October 1, 2007

"Christian theology ... is never a purely human discourse about God, but always, and inseparably, the logos and 'logic' of God's self-revelation.... A theology which no longer draws its life-breath from faith ceases to be theology." -- Benedict XVI, Address at Cistercian Monastery of Heiligenkreuz, September 9, 2007.

"God has called each of us into being and gives us a personal task. God needs each of us and awaits our response." -- Benedict XVI, Vienna Konzerthaus, September 9, 2007.

"Europe cannot and must not deny her Christian roots. These represent a dynamic component of our civilization...." -- Benedict XVI, Address at the Hofburg Palace, Vienna, September 7, 2007.

I.

At the request of the Austrian government and church, Benedict XVI visited Austria from September 7 to September 9. It was the occasion of the 850th Anniversary of the famous Marian shrine, Mariazell. On landing at the Vienna's Schwechat airport, where he was greeted by the Austrian President and the Austrian Chancellor, together with the Cardinal Primate of Vienna, the Pope said, "I intend my Pilgrimage to Mariazell to be a journey made in the company of all the pilgrims of our time. In this spirit I will soon lead the people in pray in the center of Vienna, prayer which, like a spiritual pilgrimage, will accompany these days throughout your Country." [1] In his address to the political and diplomatic officials in Vienna, the pope, more familiarly, remarked that this is his first official visit to Austria as Bishop of Rome, but he knew the country well from his earlier visits. "It is—may I say—truly a joy for me to be here. I have many friends here and, as a Bavarian neighbor, Austria's way of life and traditions are familiar to me."

The pope often talks of Europe and its Christian heritage. He seems to accept a closer European integration as a good thing. But he recognizes the rationalist and anti-Christian sentiment in much European integration thinking. He praises Europe's capacity of "self-criticism" which, the pope said, "gives it a distinctive place within the vast panorama of the world's cultures." I take this to mean that the very idea of "self-criticism" comes out of what is unique about Europe and represents something needed in all cultures.

While noting Europe's "rapidly aging" population, Benedict urges it not to "give up on itself." Europe does not, however, exercise "responsibility in the world corresponding to its singular intellectual tradition, its extraordinary resources and its great economic power." The pope thinks that Europe should "assume the role of leadership" in poverty questions. Though he touches on it, he does not discuss the relation between poverty and ideology, which in modern times is often the major cause of poverty, not any lack of know-how or even of good will. One can have the greatest desire to help the poor and opt for a method, scientific, economic, or moral, that simply won't work to achieve this end.

To the Austrian officials and accredited diplomats, Benedict makes a very strong point about the primacy of life, following John Paul II's Evangelium vitae. First, the pope affirms, that "it was in Europe that the nation of human rights was first formulated. The fundamental human right, the presupposition of every other right, is the right to life itself." The pope, however, shows awareness of the Hobbesian origins of the modern notion of "human rights," which notion, based on a pure voluntarism, results in the very opposite of what he is advocating.

Human life means "life from the moment of conception until its natural end. Abortion, consequently, cannot be a human right—it is the very opposite." Use of the term "human right" consistently gets us into this very difficulty that we affirm it with one sentence and have to turn around in the next to defend ourselves against the accusation of inconsistency because we do not support the "right" to abortion. The pope notes the logic that wants also to eliminate the elderly and sick on the basis of "rights." Obviously, if the term "right to life" means either that we protect life from its beginning to its natural end or that we terminate it when we think we have legal will to do so, there is an equivocation in the very expression "natural rights."

What is to be emphasized here is that Benedict, in dealing with abortion and euthanasia, does not argue primarily from religions grounds to the wrongness of these acts. The Catholic position, contrary what is often assumed, does not initially affirm its position on these two aberrations because of something in revelation or "religion." The view that opposition to these two wrongs--abortion or euthanasia-- is based on religion is in principle erroneous, even though religion has its own reasons to oppose them. "In stating this," Benedict says, "I am not expressing a specifically ecclesial concern. Rather I wish to act as an advocate for a profoundly human need, speaking on behalf of these unborn children who have no voice." Abortion and euthanasia are, on the grounds of reason, untenable. The pope speaks in behalf of reason, not against it. He speaks in behalf of reason against even a voluntarist law, which is a law that claims its licetness on the basis of positive law alone.

Having children, the pope aptly says, is not "a form of illness." He goes on to emphasize the joy of children and their importance in life, something that often seems lost in Europe with its very low birth rate that threatens the very future of most European nations. Benedict thus says to the Austrian officials: I also decisively support you in your political efforts to favor condition for enabling young couples to raise children. Yet, all this will be pointless unless we can succeed in creating once again in our countries a climate of joy and confidence in life, a climate in which children are not seen as a burden but rather as a gift for all." The issue of population is not just an economic or even political one, but one of the person and his concern for the future of his kind.

II.

Another issue that is important for Europe, Benedict adds, is "the dialogue of reason." There is a "tradition of thought which considers as essential a substantial correspondence between faith, truth and reason. Here the issue is clearly whether or not reason stands at the beginning and foundation of all things." This was the theme that the pope addressed in the Regensburg Lecture. The civilization to which we belong is founded in and addressed by reason. Scripture itself recognizes this. This understanding of logos, reason, is the basis of man's internal order within oneself and of the grounds on which we know that we are addressed by God's self-revelation. God's "self-revelation," as Benedict explained to the Cistercians needs a faith that is open to reason and that is capable to receive it, hence to a philosophy that is based on what is.

What is the fundamental issue here? "The issue is whether reality originates by chance and necessary, and thus whether reason is merely a chance by product of the irrational and, in an ocean of irrationality, it too, in the end, is meaningless," Benedict explains, "or whether instead the underlying conviction of Christian faith remains true: In principio erat Verbum--in the beginning was the Word; at the origin of everything is the creative reason of God who decided to make himself known to human beings." The doctrine of creation thus holds that the foundation of the order in things is rooted in nothing less than the Logos, the Word, in which all things not God found their meaning and order. This is why the pope could say, as he did in the Vienna Konzerthaus, that "God calls each of us into being and gives us a task." He awaits our "response." This is the ultimate basis of our given dignity. We do not give ourselves being, but accept it as a gift. And our being itself implies a task that leads to God through our response to others.

As a confirmation and affirmation of what he has been saying, Benedict cites his friend, the non-Christian German philosopher, Jürgen Habermas. Habermas remarked that an understanding of the modern era requires an understanding of Christianity as something more than a "catalyst." The notions of "social coexistence" and "freedom" that stem from "egalitarian universalism" arise from the Jewish notion of justice and the "Christian ethics of love." Many thinkers and ideologue seek to find an alternative explanation of the validity of these ideas. "To this day an alternative to id does not exist," Habermas concludes. One might say, in general, that one of the most astonishing aspects of modern philosophy is its reluctance to understand the role of Christianity in western civilization and in the progress of reason. Habermas, along with thinkers like Christopher Dawson and Pierre Manent, is a refreshing exception.

III.

The pope's lecture in the Vienna Konzerthaus was directed to Volunteer Organizations in Austria. As we recall from Deus Caritas Est, the theme of voluntary organizations has become a favorite of Benedict. Behind its purpose is the issue of the limits of the state. Christianity has indeed added something to the world that is beyond the confines of the justice or benevolence, both valid natural virtues. Christianity, as the French philosopher, Remi Brague, remarks in his Law of God, has relatively little direct effect on the political order but much effect on the order of society and family. Ernest Fortin also wrote well on this topic. The pope praises the "culture of voluntarism" that he finds in Austria. "Love of neighbor is not something that can be delegated: the State and the political order, even with their necessary concern for the provision of social services, cannot take its place." Neglect of what the state cannot do is what is really the matter with so many "social justice" schemes naively designed to cure human ills. It is true that one of the reasons that people cannot help themselves is because of incomprehension of the political order, and how to do so through application of the principles of subsidiarity and the common sense experience of what works. This limited capacity is not necessarily a defect of politics. But it is an awareness of what politics was never set up to do. It is within this area that Christian revelation has its first entry into human culture.

The pope has something much more profound in mind. "Love of neighbor always demands personal commitment and the State, of course, can and must provide the conditions which make this possible." People, especially the young, want to know that they can help. Often they do not realize that it is precisely the personal element that is lacking in many social ills and disorders. "Jesus called men and women and gave them the courage needed to embark on a great undertaking, one to which, by themselves, they would never hade dared to aspire." What is important about this passage is that charity does not necessarily mean that we embark on some grandiose scheme to transform the world. Rather we are to be personally present when someone, because of his intrinsic dignity, is in need.

In the Regensburg Lecture, Benedict cited Duns Scotus as one of the origins of Western voluntarism, of the idea that there is no real order in nature except God's arbitrary will. Here, as if to show us that a man who can have a dubious idea in one area may have a perfectly good one in another area, the pope cited the great Franciscan theologian as saying, "Deus vult condiligentes – God wants persons who love together with him." Benedict even cites Nicholas of Cusa as saying, "since the eye is where love is found, I know that you love me...." The phrase "the eye is where love is found"--ubi amor ibi oculus"--is cited often in literature, first perhaps by Democritus junior. Josef Pieper uses it. Nicholas says that "our gaze must be creative." The pope adds to this remark that "Jesus Christ does not teach us a spirituality 'of closed eyes,' but one of 'alertness,' one which entails an absolute duty to take notice of the needs of others...." No spirituality of "closed eyes," the "absolute duty to notice the needs of others"—these are marvelous phrases.

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