They have been preparing to greet the Pope in Austria. But some groups are using his three day visit to voice criticism about his attitudes to grass-roots catholics and homosexuals. During the visit Benedict XVI will take part in a silent ceremony to remember Austria’s 65,000 Jewish victims of the Holocaust. But gay-rights campaigners are angry about his conservative stance on homosexuality.
Leading member of the gay community Christian Hougel says: “It’s bad timing for the Pope’s visit because there’s a major debate in Austria about legalising gay partnerships so lesbians and gay men can get married. We’re afraid the Pope’s messages will harden public opinion here against that.”
Some Catholic activists have accused the Pontiff of paying too little attention to ordinary churchgoers’ concerns, at the risk of losing more of his flock. One pressure group, which wants the Vatican to give women a greater role, and to ordain married men, says Austria could run out of priests unless something is done.