Pope Benedict XVI tried to rally loyalists against 'aggressive
secularism' this weekend during a visit to the traditional Catholic
stronghold of Spain.
Pope Benedict XVI spent this weekend in Spain trying to reclaim
one of the most important Roman Catholic strongholds.
During his visit, he surprised Spain with strong words against
what he described as "aggressive secularism" on the part of the
government that since 2004 has legalized gay marriage, relaxed
abortion legislation, and eliminated compulsory religious education
"The renaissance of modern Catholicism comes mostly thanks to
Spain. But it is also true that laicism, a strong and aggressive
secularism was born in Spain, as we saw in the 1930s," the Pope said
on board his plane just before arriving in the northwestern coastal
city of Santiago de Compostela. "This dispute is happening again in
Spain today. The future of faith and the relations between faith and
secularism have Spanish culture as its epicenter."
IN PICTURES: Pope Benedict XVI
While officially consecrating Barcelona's Sagrada Familia church
as a basilica on Sunday, the pope continued his push.
"The Church opposes all forms that negate human life and supports
everything that supports the natural order in the realm of
institution of the family," he told the 6,500 people inside, almost
a fifth of them from the clergy.
But the low turnout to see Benedict XVI on his second visit to
Spain as pope seemed to illustrate his concern that Europe is
shedding its Catholic roots.
Crowds of in the tens of thousands sometimes seemed to only
slightly outnumber the vast security detail that closed off much of
Spain's second-biggest city, and many streets along the papal route
were nearly empty. Also, small, unusual protests such as a gay "kiss-
in" by couples as Benedict XVI waved from his vehicle drew the ire
of loyal Catholic followers.
Zapatero's scheduling conflicts
King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia greeted the pope, were present
in the consecration mass, and bid him farewell at the airport, but
Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was
conspicuously absent and only met the Catholic patriarch for a
private meeting in the airport minutes before he returned to Rome.
Mr. Zapatero decided to visit Spanish troops in Afghanistan
throughout most of the pope's visit and publicly only shook his
hand, highlighting the tense relations with one of the Vatican's
closest traditional allies in Europe. …