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Pope Celebrates Mass For 70,000

Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in front of 70,000 people Monday in the famed German pilgrimage center of Altoetting and listened to a brief prayer for peace tied to the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The pope, on a sentimental six-day homecoming tour of his native Bavaria, confined his sermon to the Virgin Mary, Jesus' mother, to whom the Altoetting shrine is devoted.

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

Laywoman Walburga Wieland offered a brief remembrance of the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.

"We ask, five years after the terror attacks at the World Trade Center in New York, for peace in the world," she said during the service.

Benedict, who arrived in Munich on Saturday, left the Bavarian capital by helicopter for the short hop to the city, where he was met by Bavarian Governor Edmund Stoiber and Wilhelm Schraml, the Bishop of Passau, along with thousands of well-wishers who filled the sidewalks and squares.

People lined the route down which the "popemobile" traveled to the town, as church bells pealed to welcome Benedict's arrival. He rode to the central Chapel Square, surrounded by church spires and the Chapel of Mercy, believed to date from 700 A.D.

The town is known for its wooden statue of the Black Madonna, which was first brought to Altoetting in 1330 and has since become a destination for people seeking help for their troubles. The dark color comes from centuries of candle smoke.

The pope's family made several pilgrimages during his childhood, which the pontiff has said are among his earliest memories.

Benedict also planned to make a visit to Marktl am Inn, where he was born, and to Freising, where he was ordained a priest. He will also visit Regensburg, where he once taught theology; he still has a house in the city, and his brother Georg, a retired priest and choir director, lives there as well.

Pilgrims gathered in the Dultplatz, a square near the papal route, as early as 2:30 a.m. A beer tent was set up and open for business, with sausages sizzling on the grill. No beer was to be sold until the afternoon, after Mass had ended.

"There are some people who might drink two or three beers and then get rowdy. This is something that we want to avoid today because this is our only chance, because the pope probably won't be back," said Peter Winke, 47, a representative of the Brauerei Hackelberg brewery. "The next pope will probably be African or Italian and won't come to Bavaria."

Others were excited about the chance to see their German pope.

"This is a really big thing — I've never seen a pope before," said Juergen Tauer, a 38-year-old computer technician from the Bavarian town of Degendorf who took the day off to travel to Altoetting with his wife and three children. "It's great that the pope is coming to Altoetting."

"Pope John Paul was a great figure for young people, and I think he can do the same. I hope he can step into those footsteps," Tauer said of Benedict XVI.

Both he and Joseph Scherer, 50, who stood on the pope's route just outside the square, said they were not worried that it might be the pope's last visit to Bavaria.

"We must not be afraid," said Scherer, 50, of nearby Wasserburg am Inn.

"This is a great joy," Scherer said. "I was at the Munich Mass yesterday, and I was enthused by his words."

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