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Sunday, June 21, 1998 Published at 05:19 GMT 06:19 UK

World: Europe

Pope beatifies Austrian nun

The Pope with Vienna's Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn preparing for mass

The Pope ended his three-day visit to Austria with an open-air mass in Vienna, where he beatified three Austrians.

[ image: Sister Restituta Kafka, who the Pope has beatified]
Sister Restituta Kafka, who the Pope has beatified
The three included a nun, Restituta Kafka, who was executed by the Nazis in 1943 for high treason. Beatification is the first step towards sainthood.

The mass took place in the Heldenplatz - the square where vast crowds applauded Hitler after Nazi Germany annexed Austria in 1938.

The beatification is part of a move to repair the damage done by the church's slowness to recognise Christians who stood up against the Third Reich.

Catholics attending the mass in Vienna: "We should learn to forgive"
In his address - his last public speech in Austria - the Pope made no mention of the sex scandal which has split the country's Catholics and dogged the papal visit.

But the new archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, said some people had lost confidence in the Pope and the bishops.

[ image: Protesters carried balloons at the Pope's Sankt-Poelten mass]
Protesters carried balloons at the Pope's Sankt-Poelten mass
The BBC's religious affairs correspondent says it looks as though the Pope's sympathies lie with some of the country's most conservative clerics rather than liberal church members who have urged him to take action over the matter.

On Saturday, liberal Roman Catholics in the city of Sankt-Poelten waved 1,000 black balloons in protest at their local traditionalist bishop as the Pope came to the city to celebrate an open-air mass.

BBC's Emily Buchanan: gravest split Austria's Church has faced
The bishop, Kurt Krenn, appointed by the Pope, is the most prominent supporter of the disgraced Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Groer, who is accused of abusing a trainee monk 20 years ago.

Although Cardinal Groer resigned in April and went into exile in Germany, conservative Austrian bishops and the Vatican have consistently blocked attempts to make all the facts known.

[ image: Cardinal Hermann Groer: allegations of abuse]
Cardinal Hermann Groer: allegations of abuse
The balloons - symbolising liberal Catholics' feelings that a "cloud of sadness" hangs over recent events in the church - were clearly visible on the Pope's route to the Mass.

Liberal Catholics are also pushing for fundamental reforms within the Roman Catholic Church, such as admitting women to the priesthood and abolishing the rule of celibacy.

On Saturday, some local church leaders boycotted the event, while liberal Catholic supporters who attended it handed out leaflets urging the Pope to sack Bishop Krenn.

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