Pope Benedict XVI paid tribute today to the 65,000 Austrian victims of the Holocaust at the start of his three-day visit to Austria, BBC reports. Alongside Jewish leaders, the pontiff expressed “sadness, repentance, and friendship” at a monument honoring those killed by the Nazis. Benedict tomorrow leads a pilgrimage to an 850-year-old Catholic shrine outside Vienna, according to VOA.
Observers say Benedict's trip to the heavily Catholic country is designed partly to renew the faith of those disillusioned by the church's sex abuse scandals, as well as a government-imposed church tax. It's estimated that some 30% of Austrian Catholics have left the church since 1983, when Benedict's predecessor John Paul II visited.