Pope in Spain to boost faith as church attendances fall
From The Daily Telegraph, 18.8.11:
On his last visit to Spain Pope Benedict XVI warned of the “strong and aggressive secularism” gripping the nation as he spoke from the pulpit while inaugurating Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia last November.
Church officials have said this third visit to Spain – making it the country he has visited most since becoming Pontiff in April 2005 – was arranged in the belief that the nation needed “a deeper evangelisation”.
Spain is less solidly Catholic than it once was. A government survey released in July found that 71.7 per cent of Spaniards declared themselves Roman Catholics, compared with 82.1 per cent in 2001.
Of those, only 13 per cent said they attended Mass regularly on Sundays, compared with 19 per cent a decade ago.
Officially a secular state since the transition to democracy following the death of dictator General Francisco France in 1975 the Church’s power and influence has steadily waned.
Under Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero, who came to power in 2004, Spain has undergone a series of reforms that have put his socialist government on a collision course with the Church.
Same sex marriages were legalised, divorce made easier and abortion laws reformed allowing women to terminate pregnancies on demand and girls aged 16 to seek abortions without needing their parents’ permission.
Religious education was taken off the curriculum, crucifixes removed from public school classrooms and a percentage of income tax diverted to the Church made optional.
The social fabric of Spain has changed to such an extent that one in three babies are now born to unmarried mothers – more than twice the number a decade ago, according to recent data published by the National Institute of Statistics.