Wednesday, September 13, 2006

It rings true

Pope Gives His Cardinal's Ring to Mary at Altoetting

Presents It at 14th-Century Image of the Black Virgin

ALTOETTING, Germany, SEPT. 12, 2006 ( Benedict XVI gave his cardinal's ring to the Black Virgin of Altoetting, at the most famous shrine of Germany and the "religious heart" of Bavaria.

The Holy Father made the gesture Monday. As Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, he received the cardinal's ring in 1977 from Pope Paul VI, who named him cardinal of

Vatican sources said that the ring was kept by the Holy Father's brother Georg, 82, who is also a priest and who lives in Regensburg.

Monsignor Georg Ratzinger gave the Pope the ring on Monday, to give to the Blessed Virgin, to whom he is very devoted.

Benedict XVI feels very much linked to Altoetting, which is 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Marktl-am-Inn, his birthplace.

The Ratzinger family often visited the shrine, and the Pope once said that he had the good fortune to be able to visit the church regularly, especially the Chapel of Graces (Gnadenkapelle), where the Black Virgin is venerated.

The image of the Black Virgin is a small wood carving, so named because it has been blackened over the centuries by the smoke of the votive candles lit by the faithful.

The statue of the Blessed Virgin dates back to 1330. The shrine, visited annually by 1 million people, is famous for two apparitions of the Virgin in 1489.

The chapel at the shrine houses a silver urn with the hearts of all the Bavarian kings.


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