Pope defends marriage between ‘man and woman’

Agence France Presse

Posted at Aug 21 2011 04:00 PM | Updated as of Aug 22 2011 12:00 AM

MADRID - Pope Benedict XVI warned in a speech to more than one million pilgrims in Madrid that marriage is between a man and a woman and cannot be dissolved.

The 84-year-old head of the Roman Catholic Church had to cut short the speech when powerful winds and sheets of rain struck at a vast air base, whipping off his skullcap, shaking the stage and knocking over at least one tent.

Though he was unable to complete the homily, Vatican officials said Sunday that the content of his entire speech the previous evening was still valid and could be published.

In the address he attempted to give at the airbase of Cuatro Vientos -- Spanish for Four Winds -- the pope struck at the heart of social reforms in countries like Spain.

"The Lord calls many people to marriage, in which a man and a woman, in becoming one flesh, find fulfillment in a profound life of communion," he told the young pilgrims.

A Vatican spokesman said Sunday as many as 1.5 million pilgrims had gathered to hear the pope.

Marriage was a project for true love, deepened by sharing joys and sorrows, and marked by "complete self-giving", said the pope.

"For this reason, to acknowledge the beauty and goodness of marriage is to realize that only a setting of fidelity and indissolubility, along with an openness to God's gift of live, is adequate to the grandeur and dignity of marital love."

The Roman Catholic Church has condemned the sweeping liberal reforms brought in by Spain's Socialist government in recent years, including easier access to abortion, gay marriage and fast-track divorce.

The attitude of the pope, spiritual leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, has sparked anger among the gay and lesbian community in Spain, however.

Spanish police Thursday foiled plans by 100 gays and lesbians to stage a kiss-in before the pope in Madrid, blocking the protesters before they could meet up.

When the pope last visited Spain in November he was confronted by a kiss-in in the northeastern city of Barcelona in protest at the Church's opposition to homosexuality.

About 200 gay men and women couples locked lips to demand the Church recognize their right to be gay as he paraded through Barcelona's streets November 7 in the popemobile.