Pope's Pleas For Environment

The Pope reiterated his concerns for the environment on Sunday as he concluded his pilgrimage to Austria. In a mass at Vienna's St. Stephen's Cathedral the pontiff encouraged Austrians to contemplate the fragile gifts of creation:

Sunday is also the Churchs weekly feast of creation the feast of thanksgiving and joy over Gods creation. At a time when creation seems to be endangered in so many ways through human activity, we should consciously advert to this dimension of Sunday too."

The Pope had been plagued by wet weather throughout his visit, and bobbing carpets of umbrellas were a constant feature of the trip.

Although crowds were modest compared with those that greeted the Pope in Brazil and Poland, the pontiff stressed that this was not a political visit, but a humble pilgrimage to celebrate the 850th anniversary of the foundation of Mariazell, home to Austria's most sacred basilica.

Nevertheless, Pope Benedict found time to make several important gestures. On Friday he visited the Shoah memorial on the city's ancient Judenplatz (Jewish Square). He stood in respectful silence before the monument, and later talked with seniors from Vienna's Jewish community. At the beginning of his Austrian journey the pontiff had stated that it was "time to express our sadness, our repentance and our friendship towards the Jews."

In a more controversial line, the Pope remained firm on abortion. Abortion ... cannot be a human right," he said, "it is the very opposite."

The 81-year-old Pope also expressed gratitude to volunteers, who he described as shattering the rules of the market economy.

"The value of human beings cannot be judged by purely economic criteria. Without volunteers, then, no state can be built up. A societys progress and worth constantly depend on people who do more than what is strictly their duty."

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