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Trees planted for last pope to be chopped down for new pope’s visitto Austria

Associated Press – August 14, 2007
VIENNA, Austria – They were planted to honor one pope. Now they’re being purged for another.
Four stately lime trees ceremoniously planted near a popular Roman Catholic shrine in 1983 for a visit to Austria by the late Pope John Paul II are being uprooted to make way for a large grandstand for next month’s pilgrimage by Pope Benedict XVI.
Environmentalists have criticized the action, but church and municipal officials are playing down the trees’ significance.
“This shows the hypocrisy of the church,” said Lambert Schoenleitner, a regional spokesman for the environmentalist Green Party in the southern province of Styria.
Schoenleitner believes nature should be revered as much as faith and doesn’t think trees should be sacrificed for an event that will last just a few hours.
Organizers say the trees must go to make room for a 16-meter-high (52 1/2-foot-high) steel grandstand to accommodate some of the thousands of pilgrims who will flock to the shrine town of Mariazell, 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of Vienna.
During his Sept. 7-9 visit, the seventh foreign trip in his two-year papacy, Benedict will make a stop in Mariazell to mark the 850th anniversary of its founding.
Officials conceded that a few more trees might have to be felled for the pope’s stop in Mariazell, which the Archdiocese of Vienna considers the highlight of his visit. Up to 30,000 faithful are expected to converge on the shrine to the Virgin Mary.
“Environmentalists have already been calling” to express their displeasure, hotelier Klaus Kloepfer told the Austria Press Agency on Tuesday.
Kloepfer, who owns the Schwarzer Adler Hotel, said local businessmen are unhappy that the trees are coming down – and are just peeved in general over all the preparations.
The four limes were planted to decorate Mariazell’s main square for John Paul’s first visit to the alpine country. John Paul made two other trips to overwhelmingly Catholic Austria in 1988 and 1998. He died in 2005.
Municipal and diocesan officials in Mariazell played down the controversy over the trees, insisting they are not being cut down solely for the pope’s stop but as part of a general makeover of the plaza.
New trees eventually will be planted to replace those that are cut down, Nikolaus Hulatsch, business manager for the company that oversees the shrine, said late Tuesday.
“The church does not sacrifice trees,” Paul Wuthe, a spokesman for the papal visit, told the Catholic news agency Kathpress.
Benedict’s visit will be his first to Austria as pope, though the German-born pontiff was a frequent visitor as a cardinal.
The pope also will meet with diplomats accredited to U.N. and other international organizations in Vienna, stop by a monument to Jewish victims of the Holocaust, celebrate a Mass at Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral and visit the Heiligenkreuz abbey outside the capital.
Mariazell Mayor Helmut Pertl told the Kleine Zeitung daily he thinks the fuss is completely overblown.
“If this was my biggest worry, I’d be pretty happy,” he said.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Joey

    Well, I don’t usually agree with environmentalists, but it does seem a bit inappropriate, in some ways, to cut down John Paul trees to put up a Benedict stage. Couldn’t they at least deracinate them and put them back in later, if the stage absolutely has to be in that spot?
    God bless.

  • Henrietta22

    Pope Johns trees were planted in His honor at the public square where he was to appear; four stately Lime trees, I can picture them in my mind, beautiful. The mayor says they are the last thing he has to worry about, they’ll plant more after this ,now, Pope leaves. Such empathy for lives of trees that are God’s as well as everyone else that have loved them. Someone from the Vatican says they don’t sacrifice trees in the Catholic religion. So does that mean the mayor has been told to leave the stately Lime trees in the ground to live? Or will the ugly bleachers be put up instead? Why can’t the people just stand, or sit on the gound, climb trees, maybe even the stately Lime trees. Is the town so small they couldn’t put their bleachers somewhere else? Here’s a chance for the somber Roman Catholics of Europe to show some empathy for living, breathing trees.

  • A

    It would be refreshing to see Environmentalists show the same concern for human life that they so passionately show for vegetation.

  • pagansister

    I’m personally for the trees….they have been there since 1983, so they must be a good size by now. And what will the special “Ben’s Grandstand” be used for after he leaves? It certainly won’t be a beautiful addition to the square, I’m sure. The town said that they were going to be cut down in a general makeover of the plaza anyway…just happens that Ben is coming at the same time? Interesting.

  • Robertr

    “It would be refreshing to see Environmentalists show the same concern for human life that they so passionately show for vegetation.”
    It would be refreshing if idiots could connect the dots between a healthy environment and the survival of the human race.
    But that may be too much for some folks.

  • Henrietta22

    A, to infer Environmentalists only care for trees, etc. How many environmentalists do you know who disregard humans? I don’t know any, but I do know a few and they are very nice empathetic people. Actually people who disrespect trees, etc., and animals usually disrespect humans from my observation.

  • nnmns

    I suppose this has already played out, but my suggestion would be to suspend Ben from one of those trees.

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