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Pope Benedict Denounces Abortion During Visit to Spain

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he walks with Spanish Crown Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia upon arriving at Lavacolla airport in Santiago de Compostela, northern Spain, 06 Nov 2010

On his first of two days in Spain, Pope Benedict XVI criticized an aggressive anti-church sentiment in the country that he said was reminiscent of its bloody civil war era. He also denounced its new liberal abortion laws.

Up to 200,000 people packed the square and cobblestone streets of Santiago de Compostela's beautiful medieval quarter and lined the route from the airport Saturday to catch a glimpse of the pope.

The pontiff said he was coming to Spain as a pilgrim like so many of the millions of faithful who take part in the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage here. The pope has long sought to visit the shrine, where the remains of St. James the Apostle are said to be buried.

As he arrived in the city, he made clear his distaste for Spain's liberal bent.

In Spain, the pope told reporters, a strong, aggressive lay mentality, an anti-clericalism, a secularization has been born as we experienced in the 1930s. This clash between faith and modernity, both very lively, is happening again today in Spain.

A crowd of thousands chanting Viva el papa! gave him a warm welcome in Santiago but there were also hints of opposition. About 100 people demonstrated against the pope's visit.

Speaking at a mass to more than 6,000 faithful and in what has become a highly secularized Spain, the pope warned Europe against allowing materialism to obscure its spiritual heritage.

He said: "Europe must open itself to God, must come to meet him without fear". He added that: "The Europe of science and technology, the Europe of civilization and culture, must be at the same time a Europe open to transcendence and fraternity with other continents."

Pope Benedict is spending his second and final day in Spain Sunday in Barcelona, where he will dedicate the famous modernist Sagrada Familia church on Sunday. The unfinished church by Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi is a monument to the traditional family.

One of the biggest battles between the Spanish government and the church has been over gay rights. Spain became in 2005 the third country in the world to legalise gay marriage.

Pope Benedict is expected to face a big turn out Sunday by gays and lesbians.