Pope slammed by gays in Barcelona, but cheered by faithful

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Gays staged a mass "kiss-in" and feminists took to the streets as the pope's visit to Spain's most progressive city sparked outrage from some groups on Sunday, although tens of thousands of faithful were undeterred.

About 200 gays and lesbians locked lips for five minutes, breaking off to shout "Get out," and "paedophile" as the 83-year-old Benedict XVI made his way to Barcelona's Sagrada Familia church, which he consecrated a Basilica.

"We are here to demonstrate against the pope's visit and call for a change in the mentality of the Catholic institution which still opposes our right to different ways of loving," said one protester, Sergi Diaz.

Helena Coll, 26, protesting with her friend Rebecca, added: "Religions speak of peace, humanity, of respect but then they they discriminate against these values."

The protesters were met by supporters of the pope, who cried out: "Long live the pope. Here is the pope's youth."

A group of about one hundred feminists and pro-abortion supporters also staged a rally in central Barcelona.

"We are showing our rejection and our indignation at the arrival of Mr. Ratzinger to our country and our city," they said in a manifesto read before the protest in a central Barcelona.

The pope, "as representative of the Catholic Church, has given himself the power to rule over our bodies," said one protester against the pontiff's total opposition to abortion, Montse Pineda, 59.

Behind her read a huge banner:

"We women don't want you. Keep your rosaries off our ovaries," it said.

The Roman Catholic Church has condemned the sweeping liberal reforms brought in by Spain's Socialist government in recent years, including easier access to abortion, gay marriage and fast-track divorce.

Barcelona is known as Spain's most vibrant, progressive and tolerant city.

The reception for the pope in the capital of the northeastern Catalonia region was in contrast to that in the holy city of Santiago de Compostela a day earlier, where there only minor protests.

In Barcelona, banners from an anti-papal movement hung from many buildings reading "Jo no t'espero", the Catalan for "I am not waiting for you", along with a red triangle imposed over the pope's profile.

"Homophobia. Hypocrisy. Corruption. Confessional state. Paedophilia. Vatican bank. NO THANK YOU," read one large white and black banner hung from the balcony of an apartment near the Sagrada Familia.

But other signs in the yellow and white of the Vatican flag were hung from apartments in the streets around the temple welcoming the German-born pontiff with the words: "All with the pope."

And crowds of faithful up to five rows deep lined both sides of the street leading to the Basilica -- Antonio Gaudi's architectural masterpiece which has come to symbolise the Spanish city, its eight towers topped with ceramics dominating the skyline.

"Yes, yes, yes, the pope is already here," a group of youths chanted as the popemobile approached.

Adults and children climbed onto window sills to get a better look at the pontiff while others snapped pictures on their mobile phones.

"This is really moving. I saw the pope wave. It is not every day that you see the pope in person," said 36-year-old Soraya Santamaria after the popemobile passed by.

She had waited for over an hour with her daughter and a female friend who came with her two daughters.

The faithful watching the ceremony outside the church applauded when the pontiff sprinkled holy water to consecrate the Sagrada Familia, transforming it into a Basilica.

"This is a historic day for the city, it was important for me to be here," said 55-year-old Joan Asensior who wore a grey hat in the chill.

Now that the nave is consecrated, it will be open for daily mass for the first time since the first stone was laid March 19, 1882. Up until now services were held in the crypt, which houses Gaudi's remains.

The building work could still take another 15 years at least, with 10 more spires to go, including the central tower crowned by a cross reaching up 170 metres (560 feet).

© 2010 AFP

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