ERFURT, Germany - Pope Benedict has praised Catholics in eastern Germany who held on to their Christian beliefs despite the "acid rain" that corroded their faith under the Nazis and communism.
The pope said mass on Saturday for some 30,000 people in the medieval main square of this city in former communist East Germany, where only about seven percent of the people are Catholic.
"You have had to endure first a brown and then a red dictatorship, which acted on the Christian faith like acid rain," he told the crowd from the altar, set against a hill dominated by Erfurt's cathedral and another Catholic church.
The pope's third trip to his homeland since his election in 2005 has attracted small crowds and some protests against the church's positions on homosexual marriage and birth control, and a sexual abuse scandal.
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