Greed destroys, says Pope
Published 19/08/2011 | 05:00
Pope Benedict xvi last night denounced the profit-at-all-cost mentality he says is behind Europe's current economic crisis.
The Pope insisted that morals and ethics must play a greater role in formulating economic policy in the future.
"Man must be at the centre of the economy and the economy must not be measured only by the maximisation of profit but according to the common good," the pontiff told reporters aboard his plane as he travelled to Madrid for the Catholic Church's World Youth Day.
The week-long Catholic event is taking place against the backdrop of the European debt crisis, which has hit Spain extremely hard.
The Pope's plane touched down in Madrid shortly before noon to a crowd of hundreds of young pilgrims cheering and waving mainly Spanish flags.
He was met off his plane by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia. Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Conservative opposition leader Marian Rajoy, who is forecast to take power in November elections, were also present.
Many have balked at the cost of the visit at a time of economic difficulty. Spain has an unemployment rate of nearly 21pc.
Hours before the pontiff's arrival, riot police and protesters opposed to his stay clashed in downtown Madrid. Police said eight demonstrators were arrested and 11 people were injured in the disturbances on Wednesday night in the city's Puerta del Sol plaza.
Police said two of the injured were police officers.
On Tuesday, police arrested a chemistry student working as a volunteer for the Pope's visit on suspicion he was planning a gas attack on protesters opposed to the visit, officials said. The 24-year-old Mexican student was identified by the Mexican embassy in Madrid as Jose Perez Bautista from Puebla.
Organisers expect a million or more young people from 193 countries to attend the festival.
The main events are a prayer vigil with the 84-year-old and an outdoor sleepover for pilgrims on Saturday night at a sprawling air base, followed by Mass the next morning. The Pope's attendance shows how much a priority he places on this economically troubled country, which has departed sharply from its Catholic traditions and embraced secularism. In the economic bust, he may be hoping to lure back some of his straying flock.
This will be the third time the pontiff has visited Spain since his papacy began in 2005.
The visit also comes as Spain gets ready for early elections. Ordinarily, the church officially keeps out of politics but it will be sure to be watching closely because the outcome could affect Spain's direction on controversial ethical issues.
The election will pit the ruling Socialists, who irked the Vatican with social reforms including gay marriage and a law allowing 16-year-olds to get abortions without parental consent, against Conservatives, who tend to back church thinking on such issues and are heavily favoured to win.
In Spain, the church faces a congregation for whom being Catholic is more a birthmark than a way of life. A poll released in July showed that while 72pc of Spaniards identify themselves as Catholic, 60pc "almost never" go to Mass and only 13pc attend Mass every Sunday.