Abortion must never be considered a human right, Benedict said, and urged European political leaders to encourage young married couples to have children and the continent's graying population "not to become old in spirit."
"Europe cannot and must not deny her Christian roots," the pope declared, saying that Christianity has "profoundly shaped this continent."
Benedict opened a three-day pilgrimage to Austria, once the center of a Roman Catholic-influenced empire and now a wealthy but small nation that has seen considerable dissent against the church, as in much of Europe.
In an evening address to Austrian officials and diplomats in the former imperial Hofburg Palace, Benedict spoke of the "horrors of war" and the "traumatic experiences of totalitarianism and dictatorship" that Europe has undergone.
The pope, born in neighboring Bavaria, Germany, began his visit by paying tribute to Holocaust victims.
He stepped out of his popemobile in a driving rain and joined Vienna's chief rabbi, Paul Chaim Eisenberg, in prayer before an austere stone memorial honoring the 65,000 Viennese Jews who perished in Nazi death camps and others burned at the stake in the 1400s after refusing to convert.
He made no public remarks during the seven-minute stop but told reporters aboard his plane from Rome that he wanted to extend his sense of "sadness, repentance and friendship to the Jewish people."
In 1938, the city's vibrant Jewish community numbered 185,000 members. Today, there are fewer than 7,000.
Alluding to the nation's past complicity with the Nazis, President Heinz Fischer conceded in a greeting to the pope that Austria had "dark hours in its history."
Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, Austria's top churchman, noted Christianity's roots in Judaism and urged his countrymen never to forget the atrocities committed against the capital's Jews.
"It is part of the tragedy of the city that here, of all places, this root was forgotten -- even denied -- to the point where godless will destroyed the people to whom God gives his first love," he said.
Benedict, who visited and vacationed here often as a cardinal, faced a challenge: Many Austrian believers, disgusted by clergy sex scandals and deeply resentful of a government-imposed church tax, have grown cold -- and tens of thousands have left the church altogether.
Benedict's trip underscored the difficulties the Vatican confronts across Europe, where cathedrals are empty as disillusioned believers question the relevance of faith in the postmodern era.
The pope defended the vitality of Christianity today, saying Christians throughout history have been examples of "hope, love and mercy."
In his condemnation of abortion, Benedict said he was speaking out "for those unborn children who have no voice."
He also urged Europeans to ensure humane care of the elderly, assailing "actively assisted death," a reference to euthanasia and assisted suicide.
In a reflection of anti-pope sentiment held by some Austrians, about 300 young demonstrators marched through central Vienna on Friday to protest the pontiff's conservative stance on homosexuality, gay marriage and other issues.
"I think the pope represents a system that has repressed people and other religions for hundreds of years. It's simply antiquated," said Ludwig List, 19, holding a banner that read: "Papa Don't Preach."
Security was heavy for Benedict's visit, with more than 3,500 police officers and soldiers and 50 aircraft deployed to protect him. The Interior Ministry said the measures were taken even before this week's thwarted terrorist plot in Germany.
On Saturday, the pope holds an open-air Mass to commemorate the 850th anniversary of the founding of Mariazell, a famous shrine to the Virgin Mary about 60 miles southwest of Vienna.
The Vienna Archdiocese said 33,000 pilgrims had received tickets for the event and that 70 bishops, mostly from Eastern Europe, would join in. Benedict called the anniversary "the reason for my coming" and said he would go as a simple pilgrim.
Benedict's visit concludes Sunday with a Mass at Vienna's St. Stephen's Cathedral and a visit to the Heiligenkreuz abbey outside the capital.
Last Mod: 08 Eylül 2007, 09:11