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A loving act of protest

November 8, 2010 – 12:56 pm

One group who will be happy with how the Pope’s second official visit to Spain last week went, are gays and lesbians. Their kiss-in on Sunday morning, outside the archbishop’s palace in Barcelona as Benedict XVI was leaving to consecrate the Sagrada Familia, attracted headlines around the world. What a fantastic photo opportunity/media management – turning coverage of a visit by the anti-gay Pope into arresting visual images of their perfectly-organised “loving act of protest” – men and women kissing, with the white Popemobile in the background, the Pontiff himself barely visible. Pure genius. “It was a loving act of protest to show that love is the same in all our hearts,” said a spokesperson. Schmaltzy but with the right non-confrontational sentiments. A picture speaks a thousand words. Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece was absent from most photos, in favour of short-haired people snogging. ¡Ole!

The Pope had arrived in Santiago de Compostela on Saturday morning, while President Zapatero was conveniently absent in Afghanistan (boy, he must have been desperate to avoid his moral bestia negra). On the flight over, Benedict spoke about Spain’s “aggressive secularism”. When his plane landed, he was greeted by a few hundred followers, and then became an official pilgrim.

With crowds of the Catholic faithful numbering about half what was expected at the live broadcast of the Barcelona Mass, Benedict reiterated in his sermon in the newly-consecrated cathedral that a family is made up of a man and a woman, and that abortion is wrong; human life is sacred. He asked for the state to support married couples with children “so that a woman can find fulfillment at home and at work”. So single mothers (or fathers) and unmarried couples (let alone same-sex couples) can go hang.

On his street tours, as that which was eclipsed by the kiss-in, he travelled faster than expected in his Popemobile, past crowds just two rows deep, with more policemen than faithful on show. Hotels and restaurants reported much slower business than predicted.

All the security measures, special platforms etc, ran up a bill for the chronically beleaguered Spanish state of five million euros, which was criticised roundly by the IU leader, especially with direct contributions through tax returns (which currently raise 265 million) being increased from 0.5 to 0.7%.

So what of the 100,000 faithful estimated to have followed his visit (250,000 if you believe the Vatican)? They were mostly families with kids and young people. Where were the old ladies dressed perpetually in black, the regulars at Mass? I always thought they were the backbone of the Catholic church in Spain. They were probably at home, nice and warm, watching it on TV with their pals. Though I doubt the viewing figures will be much to shout about. All in all, whimper, rather than a bang.

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