Thousands of activists have rallied in Barcelona ahead of this weekend’s planned visit by the Pope.
Pro-gay groups, atheists and human rights campaigners all joined the rally aimed at showing opposition to the Vatican’s stance on issues such as abortion, homosexuality and resistance to the use of condoms in the fight against HIV/AIDs.
Many also criticised how the event is being handled by authorities. The head of the Secular and Progressive Movement Jouffre Villanueva said: ‘‘We’re arguing that the Pope can come to Barcelona as often as he likes but we also believe that the authorities should be indifferent or neutral to this event. What’s upsetting is authorities protecting the services of this religion. This is what we denounce, because it violates the neutrality of our political institutions.’‘
In the north western city of Santiago de Compostela, a similar demonstration of around a 150 people turned ugly when protesters clashed with police. Trouble reportedly began when the rally against the Pontiff’s visit was prevented from marching through the town.
Pope Benedict is due to hold mass in the city on Saturday.