The visit of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, on September 8 will be the highlight of Mariazell's anniversary year. The visit to Mariazell is the Pope's only trip to a European country this year, where he will strengthen the faith of his brothers and sisters. This big spiritual gift to the Austrian Church is the center of worldwide attention. "To look on Christ" is the guiding theme of the Pope's pilgrimage. Looking on Christ is a basic condition for a thriving church and for any renewal of its life.
The colourful diversity of church life in Austria will be represented in Mariazell: hopefully all parishes, reaching from Lake Constance in southern Germany to Lake Neusiedl in eastern Austria, the diverse lay apostolate, religious men and women, priests, deacons, seminarians, many pilgrims from the neighbouring countries, and the bishops from Austria and abroad will joyfully gather in common faith. We would like to invite everyone to participate. Please register in the parishes or on the Internet. Mariazell is well prepared; there is enough space for a big feast of faith.
Countless people in Austria and abroad will be able to follow the celebration on TV or through other media. They will be grateful for the testimony of faith of those people who will gather to celebrate with the Pope. We are grateful for the faith of the people, which has inspired our country for centuries. We are grateful that we are able to live in peace in the very heart of Europe. We are grateful for the commitment of the men and women in our parishes.
Pope Benedict XVI will also share the concerns of Christians and their parishes with us. He will share concerns about youth, marriage and the family, the break down of relationships, the increasingly threatened dignity of life and the lack of spiritual vocations. He will entrust these concerns to Mary, who will pray for us and who can and will teach us to look on Christ.
At the time of the papal visit to Mariazell, the Third Ecumenical Assembly in Sibiu, Romania, will reach its culminating point. Christians from all churches in Europe will gather there under the motto "The light of Christ shines upon all. Hope for renewal and unity in Europe." We are united in this one spirit and this one Lord.
One month before the visit of the Holy Father, an international youth pilgrimage will bring together in Mariazell many young Christians from all over Austria and Central Europe. This is also part of the preparation for the papal visit. We, the bishops, will pray and celebrate with the young people and will participate in their discussions.
Dear Catholic Christians in Austria, brothers and sisters, we ask you to participate in both events through your accompanying prayer and, if possible, through your personal participation. We would especially ask you to look on Christ on the eve of the feast of Mary's birth (September 7) and to join in an Austrian-wide prayer.
In all of this we especially ask for the support of the Mother of God, who is venerated and worshipped as Magna Mater Austriae.
Mariazell, June 18, 2007
The archbishops and bishops of Austria