The Pope visited Vienna's Am Hof Platz today, site of the Mariensaeule -- a bronze Marian column dating from 1667 -- and presided over a liturgical prayer service from the balcony of the Church of the Nine Angelic Choirs.
"As the first stop of my pilgrimage to Mariazell," the Holy Father said during the service, "I have chosen the Mariensaeule, to reflect briefly with all of you on the significance of the Mother of God for Austria past and present, and her significance for each one of us."
"In her maternal love, Mary continues to take under her protection people of all languages and cultures, and to lead them together, within a multiform unity, to Christ. In our problems and needs we can turn to Mary," he added.
A place for all
The Pope continued: "Yet we must also learn from her to accept one another lovingly in the same way that she has accepted all of us: each as an individual, willed as such and loved by God.
"In God's universal family, in which there is a place for everyone, each person must develop his gifts for the good of all."
The Pope commented on the significance of the Mariensaeule to Vienna: "How many persons, over the years, have stood before this column and lifted their gaze to Mary in prayer! How many have experienced in times of trouble the power of her intercession!
"Our Christian hope includes much more than the mere fulfillment of our wishes and desires, great or small. We turn our gaze to Mary, because she points out to us the great hope to which we have been called, because she personifies our true humanity!
Benedict XVI then recited a prayer to Mary: "Help all of us to follow your example and to direct our lives completely to God!
"Grant that, by looking to Christ, we may become ever more like him: true children of God!
"Then we too, filled with every spiritual blessing, will be able to conform ourselves more fully to his will and to become instruments of his peace for Austria, Europe and the world."
After the conclusion of the prayer service, the Pope entered the church to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. Youth from Vienna will continue adoration of the Eucharist in the Church for the duration of the papal trip.
"In this way," the Benedict XVI said in his address, "they will very concretely accomplish what all of us wish to do in these days: With Mary, look to Christ."