BARCELONA, Spain – Pope Benedict XVI strongly defended traditional families and the rights of the unborn Sunday, attacking Spanish laws that allow gay marriage, fast-track divorce and easier abortions as he dedicated Barcelona's iconic basilica, the Sagrada Familia.
It was the second time in as many days that Benedict had criticized the policies of Spain's Socialist government and called for Europe as a whole to rediscover Christian teachings and apply them to everyday life.
As he headed to the basilica, about 200 gays and lesbians staged a 'kiss-in' to protest his visit and church policies that consider homosexual acts "intrinsically disordered." Later, several hundred women marched to protest their second-class status in the church and the Vatican's opposition to birth control.
But in contrast, some 250,000 people came out to cheer the pope and watch as he formally inaugurated Barcelona's newest basilica, an architectural marvel still unfinished after more than 100 years of construction.
Benedict has focused much of his pontificate on trying to fight secular trends in the West such as the legal recognition of same-sex unions. He has visited Spain twice and has a third trip planned next year, an indication he sees this once staunchly Roman Catholic country as a battleground for the future of the faithful in Europe.
During his homily Sunday, Benedict noted that the church of the Sagrada Familia — a soaring, Art Nouveau basilica with sandcastle-like spires — was initially conceived of as a temple to the sacred family of its name, Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
He railed against same-sex marriage and divorce, saying families are built on the "indissoluble love of a man and a woman" who should be provided with financial and social benefits from governments. He criticized policies allowing for abortions, saying "the life of children (must) be defended as sacred and inviolable from the moment of their conception."
Benedict also planned to visit a Spanish church-run home for children with developmental and behavioral problems before returning to Rome on Sunday night.