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Pope Benedict Visits His Birthplace in Germany


Thousands welcomed Pope Benedict as he visited his birthplace in the southern German state of Bavaria and celebrated a mass in the shrine town of Altoetting. During the mass, a prayer was read for the victims of the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Pope Benedict visited the small Bavarian town of Marktl am Inn, where he was born and spent the first two years of his life. He visited the church of Saint Oswald, where he was baptized. Although he only spent a short while in the town, it was a joyous event for the thousands of residents who gathered to welcome him.

His childhood home, which will soon be opened as a museum, was vandalized with paint early Sunday, but German authorities said there was no serious threat for the pope.

The pope spent most of his day in the town of Altoetting, where he was given a very warm welcome. Looking relaxed and happy, the pope delighted the crowd by shaking hands.

Many expressed their joy at being able to see their pope in this small shrine town, in the heart of Bavaria. In the afternoon, the pope met with religious and seminarians from Bavaria in the town's Basilica of Saint Anne.

He called for more priests in the Third World, but also in the West and in Russia.

Earlier in the day, he celebrated mass in front of 70,000 people, and the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the U.S. was on everybody's mind during the mass.

Pope Benedict and everyone gathered for the ceremony listened to one woman read a prayer asking for peace in the world, five years after the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

Joining the pope during the mass was his older brother, Georg, who still lives in Bavaria. The pope focused his sermon on the Virgin Mary, to whom the shrine in the town is devoted.

"This is the mother that generations have come to Altoetting to visit," the pope said. "To her, we entrust our cares, our needs and our troubles."

The town in the heart of Bavaria is known for its shrines and the statue of a Black Madonna, which is believed to have worked miracles. Benedict's family often made pilgrimages here when he was a child.

On Tuesday, the pope will spend the day in Regensburg, where he taught theology at the university before taking up a post at the Vatican. He is expected to celebrate mass in the morning and address Bavarian science representatives in the afternoon.

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