Pope Benedict XVI meets Spain’s Facebook generation this weekend — setting up a clash of values and lifestyles in a once-staunchly Catholic nation that has become one of Europe’s most liberal.
The visit is part of a major Vatican push to make increasingly secular Europe re-embrace its Christian roots, but the pope faces a big challenge in a nation that has undergone an extraordinary social transformation in just the past few years — with laws allowing gay marriage, fast-track divorce and easier abortions.
These changes are the latest, perhaps most dramatic, chapter in Spain’s reinvention after the deeply conservative dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco, who died in 1975. After rigid social and political constraints came an explosion of hedonism and cultural vigor that caused the nation to stray further and further from its religious heritage.
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