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Issue Date:  January 11, 2008

Church continues battle for the family in Spain

Madrid, Spain

A mass rally in support of traditional families that featured a live satellite-television broadcast from Pope Benedict XVI has been harshly criticized by Spain’s ruling Socialist Party as promoting undemocratic values.

The Madrid rally -- held Dec. 30, the eve of the Feast of the Holy Family -- was promoted by Cardinal Antonio Rouca Varela of Madrid and his archdiocese. Kiko Arguello, founder of the church movement Neocatechumenal Way, organized the event with a variety of church movements and communities. Organizers said 1.5 million people attended the rally, but crowd estimates from Spanish media were considerably smaller.

Arguello told Vatican Radio Dec. 29 that the rally was meant to support the traditional family, which in Europe is under “mortal attack.”

Since the Socialist Party won elections in 2004, Spain’s parliament has liberalized divorce laws, approved a bill allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt children, and battled church officials over religion in the public school curriculum.

Arguello said, “Christian families need support because we are a minority; we are in a very serious situation.” He said the rally was not political.

In his address, Pope Benedict said, “The good of the person and society is intimately linked to the ‘healthy condition’ of the family,” which, he said, is “founded on the indissoluble union between a man and woman.”

The ruling Socialist party was swift in its criticism of the rally, saying in a statement that the Spanish Catholic church “has strayed from the fundamentals of democracy.”

A democracy, the statement said, is based on the principle that society has the authority to organize the principles of individual freedom. “In a regime based on freedoms, faith cannot be legislated,” the statement said.

Justice Minister Mariano Fernández Bermejo suggested that the church “put its own house in order.”

Socialist party secretary Jose Blanco said that the church’s leadership “with their lies” are capable of causing a breakdown of the Christian family.

He also said the socialists were foremost defenders of the family, having implemented social policies making it possible for parents to reconcile work and family life, by granting fathers paternity leave, for example.

General elections are slated for March 9, and polls show the Socialists and the center-right Popular Party, which the socialists defeated three years ago, are neck and neck. Analysts say the Socialists may be forced to strike deals with smaller parties to stay in power.

Spain remains a predominantly Roman Catholic nation. In a July 2007 survey by the Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria Foundation, 74 percent of those interviewed described themselves as Catholics. But six out of 10 respondents said they accepted same-sex marriage, half did not go to church, except for baptisms, funerals and weddings, and 42 percent said they never prayed.

National Catholic Reporter, January 11, 2008

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