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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 7, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 01
Pope vs. Spain: Political slugfest highlights Gay rights
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Pope vs. Spain: Political slugfest highlights Gay rights

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Spanish city of Barcelona announced on December 30 that it will erect a monument to LGBT people who have been victims of persecution.

The monument will be unveiled next month, according to Barcelona's city government.

It will be done in pink stone and will be triangular in shape.

Barcelona City Hall said the monument would include the inscription: "In memory of the Gays, Lesbians, and Transsexual people who have suffered persecution and repression throughout history. Barcelona 2011."

The location of the LGBT monument has not yet been revealed, but a city government spokesperson confirmed to AFP reporters that the large square directly in front of Antoni Gaudi's iconic Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) church "is one location that has been proposed."

If the monument is placed in front of Sagrada Familia, it will have more than just artistic significance.

When Pope Benedict XVI visited Spain last November, he consecrated Sagrada Familia as a basilica - a church with special status for Roman Catholics - and used the occasion to preach a sermon attacking Spain's liberal social policies.

During his sermon, the pope noted that the church of the Sagrada Familia was dedicated to the Holy Family consisting of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

He said that families are built on the "indissoluble love of a man and a woman" which should be protected by law, and provided with financial and social benefits by governments.

He also denounced reproductive choice, saying "the life of children [must] be defended as sacred and inviolable from the moment of their conception."

The pope's sermon was heckled by LGBT protesters, who staged a kiss-in in the square in front of Sagrada Familia - the possible future site of the LGBT monument - as he spoke.

Spain's Socialist government legalized same-sex marriage in July 2005, and abortion in July last year.

A 2008 study found that 66% of Spaniards approve of marriage equality. In the first three years after the new marriage law was passed, over 12,000 Gay and Lesbian marriages were celebrated.

The right-wing People's Party, the main opposition to Prime Minister Jorge Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist government, has promised to repeal marriage equality if they come to power.

On January 2, the Pope appeared via live satellite feed at a People's Party "family values" rally in Madrid.

He said that a family was "founded on the marriage between a man and a woman" and that this "is of paramount importance for the present and the future of humanity."

The rally also featured a Catholic Mass celebrated by Archbishop Antonio Rouco Varela, chair of the Spanish Bishop's Conference. Varela was assisted by a crowd of clerics including five other archbishops, 22 bishops, and more than 300 priests.

He subsequently denied to reporters that he was participating in a "political demonstration."

People's Party organizers expected 500,000 people at the rally, but police estimates put the turnout at less than 250,000.

Barcelona is Spain's second-largest city and is the capital of the autonomous region of Cataluña. The Catalan language is distinct from the Castilian Spanish spoken in most of the country.

Barcelona's Mayor Jordi Hereu i Boher represents the Socialist Party of Cataluña, which is affiliated with the Prime Minister Zapatero's Spanish Socialist Workers Party.

Zapatero has been prime minister since April 2004. He introduced and passed Spain's marriage equality and abortion laws.

While 73% of Spaniards still identify as Roman Catholics according to the Spanish Center of Sociological Research, most do not attend church regularly. Some 22% of Spaniards say they have no religion.

The Church's close identification with the fascist Franco dictatorship (1936-1975) helped to discredit the Catholic hierarchy in the eyes of many Spaniards.

Barcelona was also a stronghold of Spanish anarchism and socialism during the Civil War period of the 1930s. Gaudi (1852-1926) was a revolutionary architect and designer, but he was also a right-wing Catalan nationalist and a devout Roman Catholic.

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