Immediately upon arriving in Spain, Pope Benedict XVI touched on the sensitive topic of abortion in the country today. The Pontiff called for justice for the "poorest and the most defenseless."
Spain recently passed a new law which waives abortion restrictions in cases of "extremely grave and incurable disease."
The Pope was met by representatives of the Spanish Church, state and royal family just after his plane touched down on a foggy day in Santiago de Compostela. Crowds of Spaniards and a military band were also present to greet him.
This is Pope Benedict’s first-ever stop at the popular pilgrimage destination in northwest Spain's Galicia region. Pilgrims travel to Santiago de Compostela - or just Santiago - to reach the city's cathedral, where the tomb of the Apostle St. James lies.
Developing the theme of the pilgrimage in his welcoming address, the Pope said "in his deepest being, man is always on a journey, ever in search of truth."
The Church, he added, shares in this "profound human desire" and at the same time, "pursues her own interior journey which, through faith, hope and love, leads her to become a transparent sign of Christ for the world.”
Her "mission and path," said the Pope, is to make Christ ever more present among men. "For this reason, I too have journeyed here," he said, "to confirm my brothers and sisters in the faith."
Noting the strong Christian past and continued contributions and initiatives to building a better world, he said that the trip is an opportunity "to give a new impulse to (Spain’s) Christian roots."
Benedict XVI said that he also wishes "to encourage Spain and Europe to build their present and to project their future on the basis of the authentic truth about man, on the basis of the freedom which respects this truth and never harms it, and on the basis of justice for all, beginning with the poorest and the most defenseless."
Spain passed a law last June liberalizing and paying for abortions until the 14th week of pregnancy, providing for limited abortions up to the 22nd week and allowing them at any time during the term in cases of "extremely grave and incurable disease."
Catholics have protested the law across the country. This week, the Spanish Bishops' Conference's communications director decried the "elimination" of fetuses with Down syndrome in the nation. He said that the Pope "unites his hand in defense of life, all life, the life of all, independently of whether it has lesser or greater mental capacity."
Rounding out his opening speech from Santiago's airport, the Pope called for "a Spain and a Europe concerned not only with people’s material needs but also with their moral and social, spiritual and religious needs, since all these are genuine requirements of our common humanity and only in this way can work be done effectively, integrally and fruitfully for man’s good."
The full text of the Pope’s message can be found here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/spain10/resource.php?res_id=1445