Pope attacks gay marriage in face of mass 'kiss protest'
Pope Benedict XVI attacked abortion and gay marriage in a Mass to consecrate Barcelona's iconic Sagrada Familia church in another pointed criticism of what he called Spain's "aggressive secularism".
Spain's legalisation of abortion on demand this year and gay marriage in 2005 have opened up a rift with the Vatican. However, Madrid has been at pains to downplay any evidence of friction during the Pope's two-day visit.
Hundreds of gay and lesbians protested against the church's position by kissing publicly as the Pope passed by on his way to the fantastically embellished modernist Sagrada Familia, designed by Antoni Gaudi and under construction for 128 years.
"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," the Pope said in the Mass.
He also said "the indissoluble love of a man and a woman is the effective context of human life in its gestation, birth, growth, and natural end", in a clear criticism of gay marriage.
Before yesterday the Sagrada Familia -- which will eventually be able to seat more than 10,000 people -- had never been used as a church. Gaudi died in 1926 and construction had been slow, funded only by visitor admission fees and donations.
It was not clear if the Pope noticed the mass kiss protest as he rode by in the "Popemobile".
"We are here for a peaceful protest. The church oppresses us and doesn't respect us. . . We can't tolerate this sort of Pope in the 21st Century," said Eduardo Prado (39), one of about 300 men and women who took part in the so-called "queer kiss flashmob".
Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero promoted the legalisation of gay marriage, including adoption rights, and a law allowing abortion on demand for women 16 years and older during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.
Spain, where 76pc of the population consider themselves Catholic, was the third country in the world to legalise homosexual marriage.
Pope Benedict, on his second visit to Spain since he was elected, drew criticism from leftist commentators for remarks he made on his flight to the country on Saturday when he said the country was going through a period of "aggressive secularism like we saw in the 1930s".
Government officials did not react, but critics questioned the comparison of declining religiosity -- only 15pc of those Spaniards who say they are Catholic regularly attend Mass -- with the anti-clerical movement of the 1930s.
Some even saw it as a tacit support of what followed -- the 36-year dictatorship of Francisco Franco, who was close to the Catholic Church.
The Pope called for a "re-evangelisation" of Spain.