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Pope says modern society suffering "amnesia" about God

Pope Benedict is on a visit to Spain which has been met with a number of protests.

Spain's King Juan Carlos, right, welcomes Pope Benedict XVI before a meeting at the Zarzuela Palace in Madrid.
Spain's King Juan Carlos, right, welcomes Pope Benedict XVI before a meeting at the Zarzuela Palace in Madrid.
Image: Daniel Ochoa de Olza/AP/Press Association Images

POPE BENEDICT XVI has said modern society is suffering “amnesia” about God as he travelled to Spain’s famed El Escorial monastery on the second day of his visit for the church’s world youth festival.

Several hundred young nuns cheered, waved flags and performed the “wave” as they waited Friday for Benedict inside a courtyard of the 16th-century complex, a UNESCO world heritage site about 50 kilometres northwest of the capital.

Benedict told them that their decision to dedicate their lives to Christ was a potent message in today’s increasingly secular world.

Benedict’s main priority as pope has been to try to reawaken Christianity in places like Spain, a once staunchly Catholic country that has drifted from its pious roots.

He is on the second day of his visit to Spain following another night of clashes between riot police and people opposed to his visit.

Four protesters suffered light injuries after riot police wielding truncheons forced several hundred people to leave Madrid’s central Sol plaza on Thursday night, sending them scurrying through side streets with officers in pursuit.

No arrests were made, said a police spokeswoman who spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with department policy.

Anger

The demonstration was much smaller than a protest by 5,000 people on the eve of the pope’s visit for the church’s youth festival. It also ended in violence when a smaller group clashed with police in Sol, resulting in more injuries and detentions.

Protesters have used Sol since May as the epicentre of their rage against Spain’s political establishment, the government’s anti-austerity measures and unemployment of nearly 21 percent, a eurozone high.

They also are angry about the €50 million tab for staging World Youth Day as Spain struggles economically.

The church says the weeklong festival is being paid for by participants, donors and the church — but pilgrims are staying the night for free in government buildings and getting deeply discounted subway and bus tickets, while public transport fees were raised significantly for everyone else this month.

As he arrived Thursday, Benedict offered words of encouragement to young people facing precarious futures because of the economic crisis, calling for policy makers to take ethical considerations that look out for the common good into account when formulating economic policy.

Read: Thousands march in Madrid against Pope’s visit >

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Associated Press

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