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Pope Holds Mass in Valencia

Pope Benedict has ended a lightening visit to Spain where he celebrated mass for around a million people in the coastal city of Valencia. The Pope urged Catholics to defend the traditional family made up of a man and woman.

Pope Benedict presided over a huge open-air mass with families at a futuristic arts and science complex near the sea in the Spanish coastal city of Valencia. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims turned out for the early morning service.

Many had slept outdoors on mats after having attended a rally for families with the pope which ended at midnight.

The 79-year-old pope came to Valencia for just over one day to stress the importance of traditional family values and to close the week long Catholic World Meeting of Families.

In his homily, speaking in Spanish, the pope stressed that marriage and the family must be composed of a man and a woman.

The Church, the pope said, teaches us to respect and foster the marvelous reality of the indissoluble marriage between man and woman which is also the origin of the family.

The pope also said that in contemporary culture, we often see an excessive exaltation of the freedom of the individual.

His words appeared to be a clear condemnation of legislation in favor of gay marriage passed by the Spanish government last year. The mass was not attended by the Spanish prime minister whose government promoted the new law.

As well as the homosexual marriage law, which gives gays the same adoption and inheritance rights as heterosexuals, the Church has criticized laws making divorce and fertility treatment easier and cuts to Catholic education in schools.

Spain has long been a bastion of Catholicism but less than a fifth of Spaniards now practice their faith.

During his visit, the Pope also announced that next world meeting of Families will be celebrated in Mexico City in 2009.