The Pope's two-day visit to Spain came to an end in Barcelona, where he used the consecration of the Sagrada Familia basilica as an opportunity to condemn Spain's acceptance of changing family values.
The pope consecrated the Sagrada Familia as a basilica
Pope Benedict XVI strongly defended conservative family values and condemned abortion in Barcelona on Sunday as he held a ceremony consecrating the Sagrada Familia basilica, a monument to the holy family.
"The generous and indissoluble love of a man and a woman is the effective context and foundation of human life," he said in at a mass in the basilica, attended by some 6,500 faithful including King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia and watched on screen by thousands more at La Monumental bullring.
Thousands followed the mass at La Monumental bullring
"For this reason the Church resists every form of denial of human life and gives its support to everything that would promote the natural order in the sphere of the institution of the family," the pope added.
The Sagrada Familia, a spectacular cathedral designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, has been under construction for 128 years and is not expected to be completed before 2025. Gaudi was a devout Catholic who Benedict said "kept the torch of his faith alight" and "lived in dignity and absolute austerity."
The dedication of the church as a basilica "is an event of great importance, at a time in which man claims to be able to build his life without God," the pope said.
Benedict XVI rode down the streets in his bullet-proof glass-encased "popemobile," some 200 gay rights activists protested by kissing for five minutes.
"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 Sergi Diaz, one of the protesters. The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered."
Gay couples kissed to protest the pope's stance on homosexuality
The Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has legalized same-sex marriage and liberalized divorce and abortion laws, moves the Catholic Church has condemned.
Zapatero did not attend either of the masses the pope celebrated during his two-day visit, but met him at Barcelona airport as the pope departed. Benedict gave his final address of the visit at the airport, expressing hope that an increasingly secular Spain, and Europe as a whole, could reconnect with its Christian tradition.
"May this faith find new vigor on this continent and become a source of inspiration," the pope said, before departing for Rome.
On Saturday, Benedict referred to a "strong and aggressive anti-clericism" that he said had resurged in the country since the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.
The Catholic Church was a dominant force in Spanish politics throughout the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, which ended after his death in 1975.
Author: Andrew Bowen (AP, AFP, dpa)
Editor: Sean Sinico