[BARCELONA] Pope Benedict on the plane to Spain told journalists that there was a very strong clash between faith and modernity in Spain and he called for dialogue, not confrontation. PA here.
He spoke of the anticlericalism which erupted in Spain in the 1930s in the run-up to the Spanish Civil War, and said it was happening again.
"The clash between faith and modernity is happening again and it is very strong today," he told reporters before landing in Spain's holiest city Santiago de Compostela for a two-day visit.
The Spanish government of Jose Luis Zapatero Rodriguez and the Church has frequently clashed over gay rights, abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and the place of religion in state schools. But the government has turned down the volume in the past year, shelving a bill that threatened to remove crucifixes in public places and Christian vows.
A healdine in the Barcelona daily La Vanguardia says the Government will be receiving the Pope "with a white flag".
On the plane, Benedict XVI called for "an encounter between faith and secularism, not a confrontation."
His words suggest that he sees this brief visit as an opportunity for the Church and its political opponents to seek a new understanding on the place of faith in public life.
The allusion to the Civil War is a dramatic way of warning of the consequences of aggressive secularism.
In the 1930s, anticlerical mobs whipped up by the Popular Front coalition of socialists, communists and anarchists killed priests and torched churches. The outrages gave Fascist forces the justification for the uprising that would lead to the Franco dictatorship.
The Pope also spoke on the plane of the family, the rediscovery of which, he said, was "the great theme of today".