Pope Benedict XVI ended his two day visit to Spain yesterday by giving a warning against ‘aggressive secularism’ in the country and asking the Spanish authorities for more economic, social and legislative support for the ‘traditional family’ and for the ill and weak.
During his two day visit the Pope was accompanied at all times by applause from thousands of euphoric followers although the numbers that turned out to greet him did not live up to expectations. In both Barcelona and Santiago the Pope failed to fill the spaces set aside for his visit.
The Pope blessed babies and broke the protocol by appearing on the balcony of the Episcopal palace in Barcelona. He also took his time during each of his trips through the city and blessed those who were lining the streets and who had been waiting hours to see him.
As head of the Vatican state the Pope met with the king and queen of Spain and the Prince of Asturias, the presidents of Galicia and Catalonia and members of the cabinet.
His visit ended with a meeting with the Spanish president, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who had recently arrived back from a trip to Afghanistan, and who told the Pope that his government recognised the weight of the Catholic church but also guaranteed freedom for everybody.
In contrast to his predecessor the Pope asked his followers not to carry flags, hold up placards or to shout or applaud during the mass celebrated in the ‘Plaza del Obradoiro’.
His warning against ‘aggressive secularism’ in Spain raised several eyebrows. As a result the spokesperson for the Vatican, Federico Lombardi, was forced to intervene saying that the Pope’s words were not intended to be controversial but were merely intended as a comment on secularism in Europe and in Spain.
The Pope used yesterday’s consecration of the Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona as an opportunity to mount a fierce defence of the traditional family which in his words needed ‘attention, protection and support’.
The Pope returned to the same theme during his visit to the social project for disabled children. In a meeting with hundreds of children and their parents he stressed that ‘developments in new technology should never damage respect for life and human dignity’.
The Pope’ visit to Spain was also met with large numbers of opponents who were kept at a distance but who nevertheless were given the opportunity to voice their protests. Women’s groups in Galicia carried placards with the slogan ‘women are not waiting for you’ while in Barcelona almost one hundred gay and lesbians kissed when the Pope’s automobile passed them.