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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 September 2007, 12:03 GMT 13:03 UK
Pope says Mass at Austrian shrine
Basilica at Mariazell
Mariazell was founded by Benedictine monks 850 years ago
Pope Benedict XVI has visited a famous shrine to the Virgin Mary on the second day of a three-day visit to Austria.

Over 30,000 people endured drizzling rain in the Alpine village of Mariazell as the Pope celebrated Mass outside.

The Pontiff praised the shrine, now celebrating its 850th year, as a symbol of openness and togetherness that transcends national frontiers.

The BBC's David Willey in Mariazell says Pope Benedict wants to encourage more people to make pilgrimages.

Young people in particular, the Pope says, have found in pilgrimages a new way to reflect and meditate.

The Pope arrived by car after bad weather forced him to cancel his journey by helicopter - the mountains are already covered with their first sprinkling of snow.

Among the crowds gathered in Mariazell were Catholics from several of Austria's neighbours, former members of the old Austro-Hungarian empire, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Slovakia.

The Pope's 80-year-old brother Georg was also at the Mass.

Growing secularism

The chief pilgrimage site in the Danube region, Mariazell was founded in 1157 by Benedictine monks.

It receives about one million pilgrims every year from across Central Europe.

The visit is the centre-point of a three-day trip to Austria.

Our correspondent says that in a country where traditional Catholic values have been challenged by growing secularism, this is an opportunity for the Pope to tell Austrians to cherish their religious traditions.

Pope Benedict began in Vienna with a visit to a memorial honouring victims of the Nazi Holocaust.

It is the Pope's seventh foreign trip in the past two years and comes after a week of high-profile meetings with leaders including Israeli President Shimon Peres and Syrian Vice President Faruq al-Shara.




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