The Pope arrives for a four-day visit to Spain which has caused controversy among some who say the cash-strapped state cannot afford it.
The Pope’s visit has prompted an angry reaction from some in Spain who have balked at the cost, including the lavish welcome being prepared, at a time of economic hardship for Spain. The visit itself is estimated to be costing Spain 50m Euro.
More than 100 groups opposed to the visit took to the streets of Madrid on Wednesday night, including gay rights advocates (who staged a ‘kiss-in’ during a papal visit in 2010), secularists and even Catholic priests. Members of the “indignados” movement against economic mismanagement and political corruption also joined the protest.
Earlier in the week, 120 clergyman signed a petition criticising the Pope’s visit on the grounds of cost and meddling in the affairs of the state.
Luis Vega from the Association of Atheists and Thinkers said: “It’s a private event and is being financed with public funds, with the Spanish people’s money and taxes.”
The visit will culminate in the celebration of mass at a World Youth Day event at Cuatro Vientos Airport in the capital.
The protests come at a time when the Catholic church has been facing something of a backlash from some of its formerly rock-solid state supporters.
The Vatican’s ambassador to Ireland was recalled in July after an Irish government report into child abuse in the Cloyne diocese criticised the Catholic church for insisting its bishops ignored state child-protection guidelines including the mandatory reporting of child abuse.