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Benedict XVI Accepts Invitation to Visit Austria

Plans to Go to Marian Shrine Next September

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 5, 2006 ( Benedict XVI accepted the invitation of Austria’s president to visit the shrine of Mariazell, where he had gone on pilgrimage shortly before being elected Pope.

The Holy Father received President Heinz Fischer in audience today at the Vatican. The Austrian leader was later received by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, reported the Press Office of the Holy See.

During their five-yearly visit to Rome last November the bishops of Austria invited Benedict XVI to visit the Marian shrine of Mariazell in 2007, the year of the landmark’s 850th anniversary.

Now, the Pope has accepted the official invitation to visit Mariazell next year. He is expected to go to this small mountain station on Sept. 8, feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Mariazell, which has 2,000 inhabitants, is located in the heart of Austria, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) southwest of Vienna. It receives 1 million pilgrims a year from Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia.

The Christian presence at the locale dates back to the year 1157. The region’s Web page has already announced the visit.

According to the Vatican press note, during the Austrian president’s meetings with the Holy Father and Cardinal Bertone, there were discussions on “the presence and activity of the Catholic Church in Austrian society.”

“In an atmosphere of great cordiality, the activities of the Catholic Church in Austrian society were discussed,” the communiqué said. “Joy was expressed on the good bilateral relations between the Holy See and Austria, as well as on the mutual harmony on the theme of the cultural and spiritual identity of Europe.

“Certain topics of great importance to today’s world context were then taken into consideration: the promotion of dialogue between cultures and religions, in particular between Christianity and Islam, and rejection of any sort of terrorism.”

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