Pope Confronts Secularism During Trip to Spain

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

During his trip to Spain this weekend, Pope Benedict XVI warned about an aggressive anti-clericalism that is once again overtaking Europe and urged the faithful to open itself to God once again.

The AFP is reporting that the Pope set the tone for his visit even before he landed in Santiago de Compostela on Saturday when he spoke with reporters about a dangerous anti-clericalism that swept through Spain in the 1930’s that resulted in the murder of scores of priests and nuns.

“Spain saw in the 1930s the birth of a strong and aggressive anti-clericism,” he said. “The clash between faith and modernity is happening again, and it is very strong today.”

This theme came up again in his homily during an open air Mass in Santiago when he pleaded for Europe to return to God and said it was a tragedy that God was treated as an enemy of freedom in modern times.

“Europe must open itself to God, must come to meet Him without fear,” he told the crowd of pilgrims who greeted him with cries of “Be-ne-dicto!”

“Tragically, above all in nineteenth century Europe, the conviction grew that God is somehow man’s antagonist and an enemy of his freedom,” he said.

Upon landing at Barcelona later that day he was greeted by thousands who waved Vatican flags cried “Viva el Papa” in the square outside Barcelona’s cathedral, Santa Eulaliam. 

While consecrating the Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona, the Pope strongly defended the family and condemned abortion.

“The generous and indissoluble love of a man and a woman is the effective context and foundation of human life,” he said in at a mass in the basilica which was attended by more than 6,000 people, including King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia.

“For this reason the Church resists every form of denial of human life and gives its support to everything that would promote the natural order in the sphere of the institution of the family,” he said.

Representatives of the Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero were conspicuously absent from the Pope’s events, except for the final moments when the Prime Minister attended the Holy Father’s farewell remarks to the country at the airport.  Zaperto’s government has legalized same-sex marriage and liberalized divorce and abortion laws, moves that were vigorously condemned by the Catholic Church.

As he prepared to leave the country, the Pope expressed his hope that  an increasingly secular Spain would reconnect with its Christian tradition.
“May this faith find new vigour on this continent and become a source of inspiration,” he said. “May it give rise to an attitude of solidarity towards all, especially towards those communities and nations in greater need.”

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