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Protest Groups Arrive in Madrid Ahead of Pope

Wed 17th Aug 2011

Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Spain for the Catholic Churches World Youth Day has divided public opinion at an already turbulent time in the country, when many have already taken to the streets in unrelated issues.

The Pontiff is due to arrive at Madrid's Barajas airport on Thursday and will go on to hold mass at the airport shortly after arrival, before going on to attend and host a number of events over the next few days.

As many as one hundred thousand Catholics and well-wishers have arrived in the capital to take part in the event, but a large number of protestors, representing as many as 150 different groups, have also take this opportunity to make their voice heard.

Some groups are protesting against the Catholic church's anachronistic stance on certain issues such as Gay and Lesbian right, Contraception and abortion and insist that the church must move with the times. Other are protesting against the cost of the event - put at around 60 Million Euros - at a time when the country can ill afford the expense.

The Government maintains that the cost has been covered by ticket sales and corporate sponsorship. However, with corporate sponsors receiving tax breaks of as much as 80% of the amount they donate, many see this as revenue that should have been paid into government coffers, and as such has actually cost the country - albeit indirectly.

On top of this Employees of the Madrid Metro have used this as an opportunity to take industrial action. They are protesting that services have been scale back, and in some cases cut altogether, over previous months in a cost-saving measure, however, extra services have been laid on at a heavily subsidised rate for the event. This has angered both the Metro employees, who have undergone redundancies because of the cuts only to see a reduced staff being asked to lay on an extended service, and those protesting that the reduced ticket prices (as much as 80%) discriminates against non-Catholics, and is unfair to those who live and work in Madrid every day and are unable to enjoy similar discounts. Once more, the cost of these subsidised tickets has been met by the Government.

It has also been reported this morning that a conservative-right wing element may be threatening trouble in the capital. El Pais has noted how a Mexican youth has been arrested for planning to release a cloud of noxious chemicals over certain protesting groups.

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