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Pope Honors Holocaust Victims During Trip to Austria


Pope Benedict XVI has expressed "sadness, repentance and friendship" to the Jewish people at the start of his three-day trip to Austria.

The pope paid a silent tribute Friday to some 65,000 Austrian victims of the Holocaust, after arriving in Austria's capital, Vienna. He joined Vienna's Chief Rabbi Paul Chaim Eisenberg and Jewish community leaders in prayer at a monument to the victims in Vienna's Judenplatz.

Austrian President Heinz Fischer and other government officials welcomed the pope earlier Friday at the Vienna airport, in a ceremony that was moved indoors because of torrential rain.

The focus of Pope Benedict's visit to Austria is a pilgrimage to the 850-year-old Catholic shrine at Mariazell, outside Vienna in the Danube region on Saturday.

He will celebrate an open-air Mass there along with 70 bishops from Eastern Europe. Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend.

Austria is a mostly Catholic country, but the number of people attending church has fallen sharply in recent years. Many Austrian Catholics are upset by the priest sex scandals and a government-imposed church tax.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.