Pope faces gay protests on Vienna trip

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Thousands of police and soldiers will be on the streets of the Austrian capital Vienna tomorrow as Pope Benedict XVI begins his three-day tour of the country.

The authorities are expecting a significant demonstration against the presence of the Roman Catholic leader by Socialist youth organisations opposed to his hardline stance on homosexuality and other social issues.

“He doesn’t want us to marry, to live in legal partnerships,” Christian Hougel, an Austrian gay rights activists, told AP.

“He is against homosexuals within the Catholic Church who are not allowed to become priests.”

The pontiff will arrive in Vienna amid tight security.

Sniffer dogs have been brought in to examine his route through the city and 150 members of an elite police unit will provide him with close protection.

It is Benedict’s seventh foreign trip since becoming Pope.

He is originally from the neighbouring state of Germany.