- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 9, 2007

AUSTRIA

Pope visits famous shrine

MARIAZELL — Pope Benedict XVI pilgrimaged yesterday to a famous shrine to the Virgin Mary, where he celebrated an open-air Mass in the rain for more than 30,000 believers and called on Europeans to embrace faith.

The pope was taken by car to Mariazell, about 90 miles southwest of Vienna, after more inclement weather on the second day of his Austria visit prompted organizers to cancel plans to bring him there by army helicopter.

Although there have been no visions of Mary at Mariazell, it has drawn millions of pilgrims over the centuries, and Benedict said this year’s 850th anniversary of its founding was “the reason for my coming.”

NORTHERN IRELAND

Paisley to quit church post

DUBLIN — The Rev. Ian Paisley said yesterday he is stepping down as leader of the hard-line Protestant church he founded 56 years ago, a decision his opponents say was inevitable after he angered many by cooperating with Sinn Fein to form a Northern Ireland government.

The Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster said Mr. Paisley would step down rather than face possible ouster after the church’s annual meeting, which began Friday night.

Mr. Paisley, 81, has been re-elected for decades unopposed to the position of Free Presbyterian moderator but was expected to face a challenger when his current term expires in January. He will serve in the post through December, then vacate it.

RUSSIA

St. Petersburg protests tower plan

ST. PETERSBURG — About 3,000 people demonstrated yesterday in St. Petersburg against plans by state gas behemoth Gazprom to build a skyscraper in the historic and picturesque Russian city.

The crowd marched through the center of the city — founded three centuries ago by Czar Peter the Great as the new imperial capital.

The Gazprom complex due to be completed by 2016, includes a nearly 1,000-foot skyscraper and a five-star hotel on a 175-acre area in the Neva estuary, near St. Petersburg’s historical center. The project would change the city’s elegant skyline of palaces and churches, and has prompted UNESCO to express concern.

Weekly Notes

Norwegian politicians from the ruling center left and conservative right opposition have called for regulations to take non-Norwegian beggars off the streets. Politicians say there is a “dramatic” increase in foreigners asking for crowns in Norwegian cities since begging was decriminalized in 2006. One Labor Party politician said that most foreign beggars were in Norway on tourist visas, which makes it illegal for them to be involved in “business activities.” … Forty-three percent of Danes believe in angels, according to a poll conducted by market research group Zapera and published in the Christian daily Kristeligt Dagblad yesterday. Fifteen percent of 964 persons questioned said they have no doubt angels exist. Some 51 percent said they did not believe in angels. Eight percent of those who described themselves as atheists said they believe in angels.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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