Pope Traveling to Spain:
Pope Benedict XVI will this year visit Spain, which last month passed a law easing access to abortion over fierce opposition from the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican announced Wednesday.Read more about the Holy Father's visit here and here.
Benedict's second trip to the predominantly Catholic country as pontiff will take place on November 6 and 7, with stops in Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona, the Vatican said.
Spain's new law allows abortion on demand up to the 14th week of pregnancy and up to 22 weeks if there is a risk to the mother's health or if the foetus has serious problems, in line with most European Union nations.
But hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Madrid in October to condemn the abortion liberalisation by the socialist government.
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has been at loggerheads with Spain's conservative Catholic Church heirarchy since he came to power in 2004, moving to transform Spanish society with reforms including same-sex marriages and fast-track divorce.
Benedict addressed a message of support to a family values rally of Catholics in Madrid in December, saying a family was "founded on the marriage between a man and a woman."
One of the greatest services Christians could perform was to raise a "family based on marriage between a man and a woman... because it is of paramount importance for the present and the future of humanity," he said.
The Vatican has long been concerned about what Spanish bishops describe as militant secularism in Spain and its influence in Europe and former Spanish colonies in Latin America.
Spain's health ministry last year mounted a high-profile challenge to controversial remarks by Pope Benedict during a trip to Africa last year when he said condoms aggravated efforts to battle AIDS.
It said it would send one million condoms to Africa, which has been worst hit by the disease.
The pope said on his first trip to Africa last March that the solution to the AIDS pandemic lies in a "spiritual and human awakening" and "friendship for those who suffer."
The Vatican opposes contraception and has long argued that sexual abstinence is the best way to prevent the spread of AIDS.
Benedict, 82, will go on November 6 to Santiago de Compostela, which during the Middle Ages was Christendom's third most important place of pilgrimage after Jerusalem and Rome.
Officials predict around 10 million people will visit the city this year because it is a jubilee year, when pilgrims believe they are granted remission for their sins.
Jubilee years occur when Saint James the Apostle's feast day, July 25, falls on a Sunday.
The faithful believe James's remains lie in the city's cathedral, which is a World Heritage site.
In Barcelona on November 7, the pontiff will inaugurate modernist Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi's unfinished church, the Sagrada Familia, where part of the interior is scheduled to open to the public by September.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi confirmed the visit, already announced in Madrid, to reporters.
Benedict visited Spain in 2006, the second year of his papacy, speaking out against sweeping secularism at a mass in eastern Valencia.
The visit was designed to galvanise Church opposition to what Benedict called the "rapid secularisation" of the former Catholic bastion.
Benedict condemned the "excessive exaltation of the freedom of the individual" in contemporary culture in Spain, where 80 percent of the population consider themselves Catholic but only one in five attend mass.
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Archbishop Chaput's Houston speech:
Crucifix Appeal accepted:
STRASBOURG, France, MARCH 3, 2010 (Zenit.org).- A five-judge panel at the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights accepted Tuesday an appeal filed by the Italian government to a November ruling that deemed crucifixes in public schools a violation of freedom.
Arguing that the crucifix is a symbol of Italian culture, the government on Jan. 28 filed an appeal of the European Court ruling. The Grand Chamber's acceptance of the appeal is the first step in the process; in the coming months, the chamber will give its ruling in a final judgement.
“This is the first step of the victory, indeed it is already a victory in this case," said Grégor Puppinck, director of the European Center for Law and Justice. "The Court has recognized that the November decision raised serious legal issues and must be reconsidered due to its lack of case law reference and due consideration of the margin of appreciation. We can consider that the Grand Chamber decision will be the real first true decision of this case.”
The court's November ruling was criticized as being based on a negative understanding of religious freedom, and as overstepping the cultural and religious traditions of individual nations.
The European Center for Law and Justice is encouraging other nations to associate themselves to the case as third parties, since a final ruling will be binding for them as well. Nations such as Poland and Romania often have religious symbols in schools, the center pointed out; and nations with a large presence of Orthodox Churches are deeply influenced by religious traditions.
“It is very important in this context that the European court respects the spiritual and moral values on which it is based," Puppinck affirmed. “If the court ruled against its own spiritual and moral foundation it would ruin this European system which was founded to protect human rights.”