VATICAN CITY, 22 JAN 2009 (VIS) - At midday yesterday, during a brief ceremony held in a room of the Paul VI Hall, the Pope was made an honorary citizen of the Austrian town of Mariazell, home to one of the most important Marian shrines in Europe.
Among those present at the ceremony, which was held following the Pope's weekly general audience, were Helmut Pertl, town mayor; Bishop Egon Kapellari of Graz-Seckau, and Fr. Karl Schauer O.S.B., rector of the Shrine of Mariazell.
In his remarks, the Holy Father expressed his joy "at being a citizen of Mariazell and at being able to live so close to the Mother of God". The Pope visited the town in September 2007.
"Mariazell is much more than just a 'place'", he said. It also represents "the living history of a pilgrimage of faith and prayer down the centuries", in which "a real answer is also present: ... that God exists and that, through His mother, He wishes to remain close to us. ... For this reason I am happy to be at home in my heart and now, so to say, also by law, in Mariazell".
After highlighting how Our Lady of Mariazell "has such impressive names as: 'Magna Mater Austriae', 'Domina Magna Hungarorum', 'Magna Mater gentium slavorum'", Benedict XVI explained that the Virgin "is above all 'Magna Mater' yet", he said, "her greatness is evident precisely in the fact that she addresses herself to the smallest, that she is present for them, that we can turn to her at any moment ... just with our hearts".
AC/HONORARY CITIZENSHIP/MARIAZELL VIS 20090122 (280)