Benedict challenges Spain over family values

Rejecting claims of "obscurantism" by the Church, Pope Benedict has proclaimed "the beauty of family love" against the "anarchic freedom" of gay unions in a one-day visit to Spain for the World Meeting of Families in Valencia.

AsiaNews reports that in his message to the Spanish bishops, Benedict XVI also urged the faithful to persevere in witnessing to Christianity even in the face of persecution and to save the world from secularism which, he says, deprives it of the testimony of God, who is love.

"Continue dauntlessly to proclaim that prescinding from God, acting as if he did not exist or relegating faith to the purely private sphere, undermines the truth about man and compromises the future of culture and society," the Pope said.

The Pope was responding to moves by the centre-left Spanish government led by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to "secularise" Spain through laws and directives that eliminate Catholic teaching in schools, legalise same-sex unions, and embryo research. Spain legalised same-sex marriages last year and since then about 4,500 couples have wed.

The Pope encouraged the bishops to persist in their pastoral ministry "at a time of rapid secularisation" because "the world needs people capable of proclaiming and bearing witness to God who is love, and consequently the one light which in the end, illumines the darkness of the world and gives us strength to live and work."

Benedict XVI's trip from the airport to the city was flanked by thick crowds of people who shouted, sang, applauded and waved flags. The Pope decided to include in his itinerary a stop at the Jesus train station in Valencia, in memory of the many victims of last week's tragic underground train accident. Benedict XVI prayed in Latin and then in silence and placed a wreath of flowers.

Benedict XVI visited the Cathedral of the Assumption to meet priests, members of religious orders and cloistered nuns. He then went to the Chapel of the Holy Chalice where he met the bishops of Spain and to sign the Letter addressed to the Spanish Episcopate.

According to The Australian, among the pilgrims at the World Meeting of Families was a group of 50 Australians, including Ron Pirola who said he was here to heed Benedict's call on Catholics to defend the traditional family.

He said it was important that "people celebrate the beauty of family, (that) they encourage each other in living their faith. The average family realises that with God's help, they are the major resource of evangelisation."

Pope: Absence of God undermines truth about man and future of soc (AsiaNews 8/7/06)
Thousands gather for papal Mass (The Australian 9/7/06)
Pope challenges Spanish secularism (The Daily Telegraph 9/7/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
World Meeting of Families 2006

Bishops announce delegates to World Meeting of Families (CathNews 24/3/06)
Benedict XVI says family is a "community of love and life" (CathNews 13/6/06)

10 Jul 2006