.- In August Pope Benedict XVI will visit a Spain that faces aggressive secularism and controversies concerning abortion, sexual ethics and marriage. But World Youth Day organizers hope the event can trigger a revival of faith.
In May Archbishop Jose Ignacio Munilla Aguirre of San Sebastian, Spain said he hopes Bl. John Paul II will inspire the young people of Spain to attend the global youth gathering this August.
“In recent years they have endured years of secularization,” he said of Spain’s youth. “We are praying to John Paul II for his intercession, that he touch the hearts of those who need to be touched so that they will come.”
Pope Benedict XVI, during his two-day November 2010 pilgrimage to Spain, drew on the country’s Christian roots and noted the need “to hear God once again under the skies of Europe.”
That need could be met at the upcoming World Youth Day, where over 420,000 young people from around the world have registered.
But the event will take place during a time of tension caused by a secularizing government and society. Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid in November 2010 said that here has been a “revival of radical secularism” that has prompted laws aimed at the basic institutions of society such as marriage, the family and the right to life.
In October 2009, more than two million people took part in a pro-life march in Madrid to oppose an abortion law that allows abortion on demand up to 14 weeks into pregnancy and for limited abortions up to 22 weeks. However, opponents failed to stop the law.
The country has recognized “gay marriage” since 2005, and the Socialist government has implemented a compulsory school curriculum which has come under many legal challenges. Critics say that the curriculum promotes secularism and sexual immorality, imposes an official view of gender ideology, incites 12-year-olds to engage in sexual activity, and violates the rights of parents and their children.
In a population of over 46 million Spaniards, 42.5 million are Catholic. However, less than 15 percent of the total population participates in Church life.
Even so, the Church still has a significant presence and influence.
There are 22,890 parishes, 126 bishops, and almost 25,000 priests in the country, and over 54,000 vowed religious, 2,800 lay members of secular institutes, and almost 100,000 catechists. There are 1,258 minor seminarians and 1,866 major seminarians.
Over 1.4 million students attend 5,535 institutions of Catholic education, from kindergartens to universities. Church-run institutions include 77 hospitals, 54 clinics, one leper colony, 803 homes for the elderly or disabled, and 391 orphanages and nurseries. The Church also runs 293 family counseling centers and other pro-life centers.
Pope Benedict’s visit will take place from August 18 to 21.