Seven people were arrested and 11 injured in Madrid on Wednesday amidst overnight clashes that erupted at the start of a four-day papal visit to Spain. An estimated 20,000 atheists and liberal Catholics took to the streets to protest the perceived influence of the Roman Catholic Church on the secular Spanish state. The demonstrators were confronted by police and thousands of Catholic pilgrims that had swarmed to Spain from as far as Brazil and the Philippines to greet Pope Benedict XVI and celebrate World Youth Day, which is held every three years in a different city. On Thursday, Pope Benedict was received by cheering crowds and a delegation including King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, whose government introduced laws legalizing same-sex marriage and making abortion more accessible, measures strongly criticized by the Church.
Police clash with protesters ahead of papal visit in Spain
20,000 atheists and liberal Catholics spill out into streets in Madrid
FILED UNDER: Pope Benedict XVI