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Pope's Trip to Spain to Further Efforts Against Secularism


Pope Benedict takes his efforts to combat growing secularization in Europe to Spain on Saturday. The pope also will defend traditional family values at a mass to close the Catholic Church's World Meeting of Families.

Benedict has made combating religious apathy and Europe's empty churches a priority of his papacy, as well as the promotion of family values.

The trip to Spain takes on particular significance because of the Church's battle with the Socialist government over family issues and other fundamental issues of the church. For months Pope Benedict has been denouncing gay marriage, which was recently legalized in Spain. Belgium and the Netherlands have also legalized same-sex marriage.

The Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero took office two years ago with an agenda that included legalizing gay marriage, streamlining procedures for abortion and divorce and scrapping plans by the previous conservative government to make religion classes obligatory in schools.

Pope Benedict will meet the Spanish king and Prime Minister Zapatero on Saturday. But the prime minister will not attend the mass the pope is celebrating on Sunday in Valencia.

The pope will preside over a large outdoor mass to close the Catholic Church's World Meeting of Families. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend.

Music could be heard from loud speakers in Valencia on Friday, now that preparations for the pope's arrival here have resumed. They were interrupted this week following a subway derailment Monday, in which 42 people were killed.

The pope is expected to honor the victims and stop to pray at the Jesus subway station where the train derailed. Concerts and street events were canceled after the accident. People here say they hope the pope's arrival will help them get over the tragic event.

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