29 Dec NEWS: Spain: Big Pro-Family Rally in Madrid
MADRID, Spain (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of people attended a Mass in central Madrid on Sunday designed to promote traditional family values in a predominantly Roman Catholic country that has legalized gay marriage and made it easier for people to divorce.
The service started with a message from Pope Benedict XVI, who urged Spanish Catholics to keep their families strong.
“Dear families, do not let love, openness to life and the incomparable links that join your homes weaken,” the pope said in a message read out in Madrid. “The pope is by your side,” the pontiff added.
The archbishop of Madrid, Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, added: “the future of humanity depends on the family, the Christian family.”
“It is possible to conceive, organize and live marriage and family in a very different way from what is in fashion in so many areas of our society,” he said in a homily.
Neither police nor city officials would give an estimate of how many people attended, but the crowd appeared to number in the hundreds of thousands. In chilly, overcast weather, the faithful packed downtown Plaza de Colon and spilled out into streets running off from it in four directions.
Maria Rosa de la Cierva, leader of a church association representing Catholics in Madrid province, predicted before the Mass began that up to a million people would attend.
Spain’s Socialist government has angered the church by legalizing gay marriage, making it easy for people to divorce and instituting a public school course in which children learn about homosexuality and same-sex marriages. It is also considering easing Spain’s restrictive abortion law.
Rouco Varela called abortion one of the worst “scourges” of modern times.
He concelebrated the Mass along with five other archbishops, 22 bishops and more than 300 priests.
A similar Mass and rally were held at this time last year in the same square, and organizers put attendance at well over a million. Then, bishops criticized the Spanish government over its social policies but this time there were no such remarks.