Spaniards to be second only to Poles at Pope's funeral

5th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

5 April 2005, MADRID-Spaniards will use any means at their disposal, including car-sharing and hiring a boat carrying 1,000 passengers, to make it to the pope's funeral on Friday in Rome.

5 April 2005

MADRID-Spaniards will use any means at their disposal, including car-sharing and hiring a boat carrying 1,000 passengers, to make it to the pope's funeral on Friday in Rome.

Tourist officials estimated Spaniards would be second only to Poles among foreigners present.

A Transmediterranea ship was Wednesday due to leave Barcelona and head for
the Italian port of Civitavecchia after the company reported a wave of interest for the 1,000 tickets, while tour operator Viajes Marsans chartered six charter planes to leave Madrid and Barcelona for Rome on Thursday and Friday.

National airline Iberia, which already flies to the Italian capital eight times a day, said it was chartering larger planes to cope with increased demand.

A spokesman said the carrier was awaiting permission from the authorities to use a Boeing 747 until the funeral is over.

Travel agencies Halcon Viajes and Ecuador said they were organising coach trips but warned potential customers they might find accommodation in Rome hard to come by.

Car-sharing is another option with one Catholic group saying its members had begun setting off Tuesday, "four or five to a car travelling together" to Rome, some 1,350 kilometres (850 miles) from Madrid.

The vast majority of Spain's 42 million inhabitants declare themselves Catholic although church attendance has been on the wane in recent decades.

In addition, the Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has infuriated the Church hierarchy since taking office a year ago with initiatives such as support for gay marriage and liberalising divorce laws.

On Tuesday, government sources said Zapatero met Ricardo Blazquez Perez, the new head of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, and said the prime minister was "very satisfied with the climate of dialogue" during talks which "hold out hope of entente for the future."

Blazquez last month succeeded Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, a leading voice against the government's liberal policies.

Meanwhile, Spain's ABC daily quoted former Polish military leader General Wojciech Jaruzelski as praising Pope John Paul II, whose support for the Solidarity trade union movement eventually helped to defeat the regime.

Jaruzelski was behind the imposition of martial law in December 1981, two years after a tumultuous papal visit by John Paul to his then Communist-ruled homeland, but said he had been an admirer.

"I am Polish but in those days I was a general ... so my feelings were ambiguous. On the one hand I was very satisfied that a Pole was the new pope," said Jaruzelski, now 81.

"On the other hand I was worried the problems between the government and the Church would come to a head. Yet the future showed he was a good choice, not just for Poland and the Poles but for Europe and the world."

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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