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Germany's own son, Pope Benedict XVI, is to visit his native country on Saturday. His agenda includes a trip down memory lane. A slew of security measures are necessary to keep the pope pandemonium to a minimum.
Pope Benedict XVI waved like any pop star would from the Temple of Venus in Rome in April
He's a happenin' kind of guy, if you can say that about a pope, so security will be tight when Benedict XVI travels to his Bavarian homeland. During a recent interview with Deutsche Welle and other media, the 79-year-old said he wanted to see the places and the people who shaped him.
The six-day visit will include stops in Munich, Regensburg, the pilgrimage site of Altötting and Freising. He's not expected to talk politics, not even church politics. Instead, spiritual matters are the issues at hand. Small and large religious services -- called vespers -- are planned. Pope Benedict XVI, a.k.a. Joseph Ratzinger, also plans to visit his birthplace, Marktl am Inn.
"Benedetto" won hearts fast
A-jammin' pilgrims at World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne
Many first doubted whether Benedict XVI could follow in the footsteps of his charismatic predecessor, John Paul II. But during his first visit to Germany after becoming pope in April 2005, Benedict won over millions with his own kind of charm.
He attended the huge World Youth Day -- a global meeting for Catholic youth -- in Cologne in August 2005, where young people endearingly chanted "Benedetto." He had won their hearts.
The pope is so popular now, that for this second visit to Germany, he will move behind over 14 kilometers (nearly nine miles) of blockades when hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend religious services. Security will be at a maximum, with 5,000 police officers to guard the pontiff.
Benedict is so big, some 4,000 journalists will be capturing his words and gestures on tape and laptop.
Pope paraphernalia as all-weather gear
Like any good marketing paraphernalia for a pop star, the party will also include everything from coffee mugs, t-shirts and baseball caps bearing his portrait to stickers and Vatican flags.
"Oh, these Bavarian pastries are divine!"
Jürgen Wittmann, whose company called Six Stigma is the official manufacturer of the products surrounding the pope's visit, said they have sold 5,000 of the flags already.
Bottles of holy water and umbrellas with Benedict designs can help out believers stuck in bad weather. All of the 29 articles on sale at stands and online have been discussed together with the Regensburg diocese leaders.
In Marktl am Inn, Benedict's hometown, pope spectators can sink their teeth into "pope cakes," pastries and "Vatican bread." They can even wind down in the evening with a "pope beer." And if they drink too much, they can wipe out the memory the next day with Benedict erasers -- "Ratzefummel."
"The first production series of erasers went like hotcakes," said Rainer Tautenhahn, who produced the initial 1,000 erasers that were sold-out within days. He has restocked his inventory since then.
Souvenir proceeds are supposed to help cover the costs of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Bavaria.