Pope visits shrine where he prayed as a child

 Pope Benedict XVI retraced his childhood steps yesterday, when he visited Bavaria's most famous Marian sanctuary and celebrated Mass for more than 60,000 people. Pope Benedict has said some of his most beautiful memories were those of his family pilgrimages to the Altotting sanctuary. He returned there for the first time as Pope, stopping in a chapel to pray before a statue of the 'Black Madonna.' The small linden wood statue, darkened has been revered for more than 500 years. The image of Mary, decorated with jewels, was moved to an outdoor altar platform where the Pope celebrated Mass, with a number of priests, including Bishop Wilhelm Schraml of Passau and his older brother George. In his homily, the Holy Father said the essence of true prayer is giving God a place "in the world, in our lives and letting him enter into our time and our activity." He said Our Lady inspires, by leaving "everything to the Lord's judgment." He said that was exemplified in the Gospel account of the wedding at Cana, where Mary pointed out the lack of wine -- but didn't demand a miracle from Jesus. "She doesn't tell Jesus what to do," he said. "This is how she teaches us to pray: not by seeking to affirm our own will and our own desires before God, but by letting him decide what he wants to do," he said. Mary shows Christians how to be confident that "whatever God says in response will be best for us," he said. The Pope was greeted on his visit by huge crowds, which had begun gathering at 2am. Many carried placards saying "Welcome Home". After the liturgy, the pope led a procession to a new chapel of adoration, where he spent spent several minutes praying there. As he left the chapel, the crowd sang one of the Pope's favourite and most beloved songs of Bavaria, "Segne Du, Maria" ("Bless You, Mary"). In an afternoon prayer service with priests, religious and seminarians, the Pope made a plea for vocations and warned against "empty activism" among modern priests. The Pope said that modern priests, because of their many duties, sometimes find themselves devoting less and less time for prayer. For all their heroic activity, they lose the inner strength that sustains them, he said. The Pope said St Conrad, a Capuchin lay brother who served as doorman of the Altotting sanctuary for 41 years, was a model for the religious vocation. St Conrad would pray in his porter's cell, and when someone would knock, at any time of day or night he always responded kindly, the Pope said. St Conrad was canonized in 1934, and a great celebration was held in Altotting. Among those who had attended was the seven year old Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope. Source: VIS

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