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Pope’s Birthplace in Bavaria Vandalized

September 10, 2006

MUNICH, Germany (AP) _ Vandals threw paint-filled balloons at the house where Pope Benedict XVI was born Sunday, a day before the pontiff planned to visit his hometown during his six-day trip to Bavaria.

No serious damage was done to the house in the town of Marktl am Inn, said Bavarian state police spokesman Josef Bichlmeier said. He said the balloons were filled with blue paint.

Police were investigating, but so far had no suspects.

``It’s really secondary,″ said Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi. ``I am not worried, and I have no idea who is behind it.″

Earlier this year, the Roman Catholic Church took possession of the home in the south German village. A church foundation agreed in December 2005 to buy the house for an undisclosed sum, and said it would turn it into a museum.

Built in 1745 as a customs house, the white Alpine stucco-style building had been turned into a police station when the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was born on April 16, 1927. His father was the local police commander and had his quarters there.

Benedict, who was elected pope in April 2005, lived in the house only two years before his family moved on.

The church beat out scores of bidders, including a Saudi sheik, to buy the house from a German woman who had renovated it in recent years but complained that hordes of tourists were making her life unbearable.

Benedict was in Munich on Sunday, and planned to visit the St. Oswald Church in Marktl am Inn on Monday. He was baptized at the church.