Pope to meet Zapatero on Spain visit
Pope Benedict XVI will briefly meet Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero at Barcelona airport at the end of a planned two-day visit next weekend, the Vatican said Friday.
The pope will visit Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona on November 7, where he will celebrate a consecration mass in the Sagrada Familia cathedral designed by modernist architect Antoni Gaudi.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the trip was a "pastoral visit" that had no official political nature.
The pope's next trip to Spain in August 2011 for World Youth Day in Madrid will include more formal discussions with state representatives, Lombardi told a press conference.
Zapatero had an audience with Benedict at the Vatican on June 10, a month before his Socialist government passed a more liberal abortion law in Spain.
The law has been heavily criticised by organisations within the Roman Catholic Church, including the Pontifical Academy for Life.
Head of the Academy, Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, denounced the law as "absolutely insane."
Lombardi said the Christian family may be one of Benedict's "themes" during the homily at the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona.
Benedict has made defending the traditional family a priority since being elected pontiff in 2005.
Critics have questioned the cost of the pope's trip but Lomardi it was not "extravagant," particularly because there was no need to build stands in either Santiago or Barcelona.
Lombardi told journalists he was aware that the cost of the pope's trips was a sensitive issue because of the financial crisis.
But he said the Vatican was not "throwing money out of the windows" and stressed the positive spiritual and moral consequences of the trips.
The papal visit to Barcelona will cost around 700,000 euros (974,000 dollars) and will generate close to 30 million euros from the large numbers of pilgrims and tourists expected to attend, according to organisors.
© 2010 AFP