Pope reminisces about land where his grandmother was born

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI now has the official papers proving his status as an honorary citizen of the municipality where his grandmother and great grandmother were born.

At a mini-audience today, just after his weekly general audience, the pope met with a delegation from Natz-Schabs, in northeastern Italy. The area was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918 and even today most residents speak German. His maternal grandmother Maria Tauber-Peintner and great grandmother Elisabeth Maria Tauber were born in Raas, a village in Natz-Schabs.

Receiving the certificate, the pope said he grew up with his mother recounting stories about how beautiful the area was. He said he discovered it was true when, in 1940 at the age of 13, he was on a bicycling trip there with his brother and sister.

As children, “we saw that it really was true” what their mother had told them: “It was the angels” who made that land, he said.

Returning to the area in the 1950s, he said, “I could perceive the particular closeness of God that is expressed in the beauty of those lands.” The beauty was found not only in creation, but in what human hands were able to make — like Gothic belltowers — and in the way people acted with kindness toward one another, the pope said.

According to Vatican Radio, Natz-Schabs was the 13th city to grant Pope Benedict honorary citizenship. The towns include the city in Germany where he was born, Marktl am Inn, which is about 175 miles northeast of Natz-Schabs.

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, said the pope’s second cousin — Anna Tauber Uberbacher, 86 — was part of the group from Natz-Schabs, as was a distant cousin, Franz Tauber, who now owns the property where the pope’s grandmother and great grandmother were born.

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