Concluding his 26-hour visit to Valencia, Spain, Pope Benedict has made a speech indirectly criticising some key legislation enacted by the Socialist government. The visit has become highly politicised with the opposition conservatives attacking Prime Minister Zapatero for not taking a more public part, indeed refusing to attend a papal mass, which they turned out for in strength, alongside the royal family.
“The family, founded upon an indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman creates a domain in which man can be born in dignity”, insisted the Pope. Spain’s socialists have, in two years, legalised gay marriages and liberalised divorce and abortion laws, frequently drawing catholic criticism.
Many people present share the church’s opposition to the social measures, but for example on gay marriage more than two thirds of the people support reforms, according to recent opinion polls. About a million people flocked to hear Benedict’s mass, but from being a devoutly catholic bastion under the Franco dictatorship, in modern Spain less than a fifth of the population says it now practices its faith. The papal entourage has also expressed a “certain irritation” that Zapatero snubbed the mass.