Pope Benedict XVI regrets people’s “amnesia” about God
Pope Benedict XVI expressed regrets last Friday, during a visit to a Spanish monastery, over the “amnesia” that prevails about God, on the second day of his visit to the country.
The pope, who will be in Spain until Sunday for the Roman Catholic Church’s World Youth Day, was greeted by hundreds of nuns who waved flags and cheered as he spoke at the 16th-century El Escorial monastery.
At the UNESCO world heritage site Benedict said, “This is all the more important today when we see a certain eclipse of God taking place, a kind of amnesia which albeit not an outright rejection of Christianity is nonetheless a denial of the treasure of our faith, a denial that could lead to the loss of our deepest identity,” the AP reported.
As pope, it has been a priority for Benedict to seek to revive Christianity, particularly in previously, staunchly Catholic Spain, where he has already made three papal visits.
The pope’s speech was also significant because El Escorial was the seat of power of King Philip II in 1559 when Spain was an international force bent on defending Catholicism from the Reformation and Protestantism.
Benedict also met withSpain’s royal family earlier in the morning. He is scheduled to have lunch with youth volunteers, talk to university educators, meet the prime minister and head the Way of the Cross, which re-enacts the crucifixion and death of Jesus.
The day before, upon the pope’s arrival, Benedict encouraged the youth to stay faithful amid Spain’s economic recession. He also said the government must consider the common good and protect the least fortunate when forming economic policy.
Benedict slammed economic structures that prioritize profits over people saying, “The economy cannot be measured by the maximum profit but by the common good. The economy cannot function only with mercantile self-regulation but needs an ethical reason in order to work for man,” Reuters reported.
The pope said this even as elements have protested the pontiff’s visit. On Wednesday night, prior to the arrival of the pope, 5,000 rallied in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol Plaza. Eleven people were injured and eight were arrested in clashes with pilgrims and the police.
On Thursday, only 200 congregated at the Plaza. Four demonstrators experienced light injuries in a skirmish with police. No arrests were made. Meanwhile, thousands of pilgrims were at Plaza Cibeles, waving flags and cheering as the pontiff arrived.
The pilgrims came from 190 participating countries. Just before Benedict arrived, he met with Madrid’s mayor, who gave him the keys to the city.
There was a much smaller crowd of demonstrators on Friday, but the gathering also ended in a clash with police with more injured and some detentions.
Spain has an unemployment rate of some 21 percent, or one out of five unemployed, and its economy is in recession. People are upset about the anti-austerity measures of the government, and angry at the $72 million cost for World Youth Day.
A young protest movement, Los Indignados, was joined in by lesbian and gay organizations, secularists and even Catholic priests to protest the cost of the pontiff’s visit.
The church says it is shouldering part of the cost, with the remainder coming from participants and donors.
In his speech, Benedict expressed support for the youth and sympathized with their unpredictable future in terms of employment. At the same time, he spoke out against consumerism, hedonism and those who “create their own gods, believe they need no roots or foundations … letting themselves be led by the whim of each moment,” Reuters reported.