It ended with a whimper, rather than a bang. The Pope's trip to Spain concluded on Sunday with rain washing out his address to a million young Spaniards at a Madrid airfield, bringing to a close a visit that the Vatican will struggle to see as a success. By REBECCA DAVIS.
The Pontiff’s trip was intended to help bolster sharply declining numbers of church-attending Catholics in Spain. But the four-day visit to Spain was mired in controversy from the start. It was estimated that the cost of the Pope’s trip would run to well over 50 million euros, at a time when Spain is suffering an economic crisis which sees unemployment running at 45% among those under 25 years old. Last Wednesday 5,000 representatives from over 100 groups chose to “welcome” the Pope with protests, uniting under the slogan “The Pope’s visit – not with my taxes”. Truncheon-wielding riot police had to disperse the protestors when a march turned violent, with 11 people injured. Gay rights groups also seized the chance to show the Pope what they think of his stance on gay marriage, planning a gay kiss-in on the route travelled by the Popemobile on Thursday.
Yet some pointed out that the media’s focus on the protests overlooked the fact that the Pope was nonetheless capable of attracting a million Spaniards hoping to receive a blessing from him. Blogging for The Guardian, Andrew Brown suggested this elision was partly attributable to a “consciously anti-Catholic bias” in the media and partly to the fact that religious pilgrims are considered “quintessentially unfashionable”.
With rain putting an end to the only potential feel-good story to come out of the visit, though, the Vatican will have their work cut out to spin the trip as a PR triumph. DM
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