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Pope laments society's 'amnesia' about God

POPE Benedict XVI has complained that modern society has a certain "amnesia" about God as he lamented the dwindling of the faith during a visit to Spain.

Once a staunchly Catholic country, Spain has seen the church's grip on society fall dramatically since the end of the Fascist dictatorship of Franco.

Benedict was speaking yesterday in general terms about the secularisation that has taken hold in much of the West in a speech to young nuns gathered in El Escorial monastery near Madrid.

Benedict, in Spain to celebrate World Youth Day, told them their decisions to dedicate their lives to faith was a potent message for the world.

"This is all the more important today when we see a certain eclipse of God taking place, a kind of amnesia which albeit not an outright rejection of Christianity is nonetheless a denial of the treasure of our faith," he said. Benedict's main priority as Pope has been to try to reawaken Christianity in places like Spain.

He has travelled there three times as Pope -- an indication that he views it as a key battleground in his bid to remind Europe of its Christian heritage.


Like in much of Europe, the church in Spain has seen its influence wane in recent decades: its stance on women, equality, gay rights and abortion have alienated an increasingly educated and sophisticated middle class. But Spain's religious apathy also stems from the memories of its 1936-1939 civil war and aftermath, when the church was tightly linked to Franco's repressive government, which ended in 1978.

Some 500,000 people from nearly 200 countries have travelled to Madrid for the week-long prayer fest and twice as many may take part in the final Mass tomorrow.