Thousands pack airfield in southern Czech city as pope prepares to celebrate outdoor Mass

By Victor L. Simpson, AP
Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thousands turn out for Czech papal Mass

BRNO, Czech Republic — Tens of thousands of pilgrims have packed an airfield in the southern Czech city of Brno as Pope Benedict XVI prepares to celebrate an outdoor Mass.

Faithful from the Czech Republic and neighboring countries — including Austria, Germany, Poland and Slovakia — sang and waved Czech and Vatican flags as they awaited the pope. The Vatican said it hoped that 200,000 people would turn out for Sunday’s Mass.

The 82-year-old pontiff is midway through a three-day visit to the country, which this autumn marks 20 years since it shook off a communist regime that persecuted the Roman Catholic Church.

Benedict is using the trip to recall the communist-era religious repression, and nudge the heavily secular Czech people back to their Christian roots.

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