_
_
_
_

Anti-papal rally will be held before pope's arrival but plans still sketchy

Benedict expected to criticize Spanish society in some of his eight addresses

World Youth Day 2011 pilgrims will have to share space in the center of Madrid with protestors who believe Pope Benedict XVI's visit is a waste of public money.

On Wednesday, thousands of demonstrators will march from Tirso de Molina square under the slogan: "From my taxes, zero to the pope." The march will pass through the central Puerta del Sol, but it won't end there, as organizers originally requested.

On Thursday, the government's deputy delegate in Madrid, Ricardo García, met with representatives of the organizing committees to look for alternative routes for their march. The demonstration is being sponsored by Secular Europe, the Madrid Association of Atheists and Free Thinkers (AMAL) and Christian Networks. Luis Vega, from AMAL, said that the 15-M movement leaders have met with them. "They came to us, we didn't go to them. But we would be thrilled if they took part," he said.

More information
Anti-papal protestors to choose new plan after their march is scrapped
How pleasing the pope became the priority

The government delegate on Monday rejected three proposals for the anti-papal rally, leaving organizers threatening to go ahead with their demonstration even without government approval. World Youth Day organizers said that they weren't against the anti-papal rally but asked the government to keep protestors away from the mass concentration of pilgrims.

"An event like this doesn't fit in a society that has five million unemployed," said Evaristo Villar of Christian Networks.

Despite being against it, García has again asked the organizers to present a new plan for their march, according to sources in the government delegate's office.

At the same time, Secular Europe has asked the Attorney General's Office to pay close attention to the pope's address. The group is threatening to file a complaint against the Catholic Church if the pope's messages criticize "in any way cohabitation in Spanish society, laws that were democratically approved, or legislative debates," reads a statement.

Pope Benedict, who arrives on Thursday, is expected to deliver eight messages that may include criticism of the secularization of Spanish society. The exact content of the messages is being kept secret.

Ramón Jáuregui, head of the prime minister's office, said that he didn't think "it was the right moment" for the pope to criticize Spain during his visit. But one Catholic Church official, with knowledge of the papal itinerary, said that the pope will no doubt deliver a strong message for Spaniards.

Thousands of volunteers wearing bright green shirts have begun to fan out across Madrid in preparation for the six-day event. Hundreds have already begun using social networks to post news about the upcoming events.

A group of nuns carry backpacks that will be distributed among the pilgrims.
A group of nuns carry backpacks that will be distributed among the pilgrims.LUIS SEVILLANO
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
_
_