Spanish PM defends social reforms after papal criticism
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero defended Sunday his liberal social reforms which have angered the Vatican, a week after he skipped a mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in Barcelona.
During his homily at the city's iconic Sagraga Familia church on November 7, the 83-year-old pope railed against same-sex marriage and divorce, saying families are built on the "indissoluble love of a man and a woman".
Zapatero, whose Socialist government has allowed gay marriage, eased access to abortion and sped up divorces, had never been scheduled to attend the service.
The prime minister was on a surprise visit to Afghanistan when the pope arrived in Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain on November 6.
He met with Benedict for about 10 minutes at Barcelona airport just before the pope departed for Rome at the end of his visit.
The leader of Spain's main opposition Popular Party, Mariano Rajoy, said Saturday that Zapatero had "not been up to the task" of prime minister with his absence from the papal mass in Barcelona.
"What does Rajoy want, that we put in place the laws that the pope wants? No, we will enact the laws that parliament and the citizens of this country want, for everyone and with equality," Zapatero said.
"They have not realised that it is up to each person to decide on morality," he added during a Socialist rally in the town of Viladecans near Barcelona.
Zapatero also skipped an open-air mass celebrated by Benedict in the Mediterranean port of Valencia in July 2006 during his first to Spain as pontiff.
The pope is scheduled to visit Spain again next year in what has been seen as a sign that Benedict sees the once once staunchly Roman Catholic country as a battleground for the future of the faith in Europe.
© 2010 AFP