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Catholics’ Day

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In 1983, on the occasion of his first pastoral visit to Austria, Pope John Paul II, at the Vespers for Europe on Heldenplatz, reminded Christians of their "common responsibility for Europe". This topic was also one of his most important issues during his subsequent visits to Austria. In 1998, the Pope emphasised the fact that "Austria plays a role as a bridge in the heart of Europe."

20 years after the last Catholics' Day, another such Day is being held, with this time the topic of Europe forming the focal point. Together with the Bishops Conferences of Bosnia, Croatia, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Hungary, the "Day of Central European Catholics" 2003/2004 has been planned as a process that would last around one year. The conclusion and culmination of the Day of Central European Catholics is the "Pilgrimage of the Peoples" to Mariazell on May 22 and 23, 2004, as an expression of a common path.

The special feature of this block of stamps is the arrangement of the stamps in the form of a crucifix. The top stamp shows Pope John Paul II, with the stamp below showing the logo of the Catholics' Day. The other stamps are dedicated to the Pilgrimage Basilica at Mariazell.

According to legend, the first wooden chapel was constructed around 1157 for the Romanesque miraculous image of the Madonna and Child shown on the left-hand stamp. The reputation of this miraculous image, the "Magna Mater Austriae" spread rapidly, and the church grew until it was converted in the Baroque style between 1644 and 1683. This Romanesque statue in the Chapel of Grace is only displayed uncovered on two days of the year. The right-hand stamp shows the "Mother of God on the Column of the Blessed Virgin", almost 2 metre high dating from around 1520, and also revered as a miraculous image. The stamp beneath the Catholics' Day logo shows another miraculous image, the image of the Virgin Mary created around 1350/60, a gift of King Ludwig of Hungary, which forms the centrepiece of the Treasury altar. The bottom end of the crucifix is formed by the stamp showing the crucifix on the high altar by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach.

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