On day two of Pope Benedict’s visit to Spain the pontiff left Madrid, boarding the pope-mobile for the journey to El Escorial – a vast palace and monastery with a huge cathedral 50 kilometres outside the capital.
The setting was symbolic as El Escorial was built in the late 1500s, when Spain’s kings controlled a vast empire dedicated to defending and promoting the Roman Catholic faith.
The Pope’s enthusiastic audience there included a large number of nuns who he praised for choosing to dedicate their lives to their faith in an increasingly secular world.
This is Benedict’s third trip to Spain as Pope in his campaign to reinvigorate Catholicism in European countries where it is waning.
He is also meeting Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero whose government has allowed gay marriage, fast-track divorce and easier abortions in Spain.
Spaniards who are angry about the cost to the state of the Pope’s trip and the church’s World Youth Day festivities took to the streets once more on Thursday night.
It was a much smaller turnout that the thousands who demonstrated on the eve of the Pope’s visit. There were again clashes with police.