Spanish king asks patron saint to help resolve economic woes

25th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

King Juan Carlos prayed Sunday to Spain's patron saint, St.James the Apostle, for help in overcoming the country's economic woes at the cathedral where his remains are believed to lie.

"I ask for your help to overcome the difficulties that affect our collective lives and resolve as soon as possible the serious economic crisis which we are experiencing that has had such hard consequences for millions of people," he said at a ceremony at Santiago de Compostela in norwestern Spain.

"Illuminate our authorities and politicians and economic policy makers so that they serve with generosity the general interest and always encourage cohesion and understanding between all," the 72-year-old monarch added.

The king delivers a special prayer to St.James at the cathedral each "Jacobeo" or Holy Year, which is celebrated each year that the saint's name day -- July 25th -- falls on a Sunday, as it did this year.

The Spanish economy, Europe's fifth largest, fell into its worst recession in decades at the end of 2008 due to the collapse of a property boom which had long fuelled growth.

It inched out of recession during the first quarter when it expanded by 0.1 percent from the previous quarter and the government expects it will expand by 0.3 percent this year.

But growth is expected to remain sluggish for several years and the country's unemployment rate has soared to nearly 20 percent, the second highest rate in the 27-nation European Union after Latvia.

The economic slowdown also caused the public deficit to balloon to 11.2 percent of gross domestic product last year, the third highest level in the eurozone after Greece and Ireland.

King Juan Carlos acts as Spain's head of state, a largely ceremonial role.

He is widely credited with helping to mediate between the country's fledgling institutions and political factions in the transition to democracy following the death of right-wing dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

© 2010 AFP

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