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 CNS Story:

LORETO-PREVIEW Aug-30-2004 (480 words) With photo posted Aug. 17. xxxi

Shrine's guardian says pope believes Mary is perfect model of belief

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- Pope John Paul II upholds the Blessed Virgin Mary as the perfect model for today's religious believers, said the guardian of an Italian Marian shrine.

"The pope insists you can learn to believe from Mary; she was fully open to God's plan" and her decision to be part of it "was not based on a whim" but upon a firm, thoughtful choice, said Archbishop Angelo Comastri.

The archbishop is papal delegate of the Italian sanctuary, the Holy House of Loreto, traditionally marked as Mary's house from Nazareth.

He will be among those welcoming Pope John Paul when the pope visits Loreto Sept. 5 to beatify three new servants of God.

Belonging to a faith community is no longer automatic in today's society, Archbishop Comastri told Catholic News Service Aug. 30 by phone from Loreto.

"Today you must want to be, you must decide to be" part of a faith community, he said, "and what better than to go where it all began, to the place of the annunciation" where Mary said, "May it be done to me according to your word."

"Freedom is not doing whatever it is you want. Mary became truly free when she said 'Yes, here I am,'" to God's plan for her to become the mother of the Son of God, Archbishop Comastri said.

Some 4 million people flock to Loreto each year to venerate a tiny cottage traditionally considered to be the home in which the Virgin Mary was born, received the angel's annunciation and conceived the Son of God through the Holy Spirit. It is also considered the house in which the Holy Family lived when Jesus was a boy.

Tradition has it that the house was flown by angels from Nazareth, Israel, to Loreto in central Italy near the Adriatic coast on a December night in 1294.

"This is a sanctuary of the beginning of the Incarnation. Here you can feel the amazement of that first instant" when the angel came to Mary, said the archbishop.

"Being open to God's plan gives meaning to life," he said.

Mary's consent to God's plan "doesn't make her become a servant, but rather makes her become truly free," he added.

The pope will beatify two lay Italians, Alberto Marvelli and Pina Suriano, and one Spanish priest, Father Pedro Tarres Claret, Sept. 5 in a special outdoor Mass in a valley a few miles from the sanctuary.

Organizers said due to his limited mobility and brevity of the visit the pope is not scheduled to go the shrine which he has visited on four other occasions during his pontificate.

The pope will arrive at Loreto's John Paul II Center by helicopter from Castel Gandolfo at 9:30 a.m. and return to Rome at 5 p.m. that afternoon. His schedule includes a 10 a.m. Mass and noontime Angelus address.


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