MANY children with Down Syndrome are being eliminated because of abortion, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church in Madrid said ahead of a weekend visit by Pope Benedict XVI.
The Pope will bless the first stone for construction of a new home for children with Down Syndrome and other disabilities in Barcelona on Monday.
It is being built by the Roman Catholic Church’s Nino Dios foundation, which used to work only with Down’s Syndrome children but has since broadened its work.
“We know that the number of these people has declined mostly because a good number of them are eliminated before they are born,” said the press director for the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, Isidro Catela.
The Pope begins his visit to Spain on Sunday with a stop in Santiago de Compostela, one of the Roman Catholic Church’s holiest sites and a draw to pilgrims for more than 1000 years.
“He will extend his hand in this way to the defence of life, the life of everybody, whether or not they have greater or less intellectual capacity,” Mr Catela said.
The Bishop’s Conference condemned an abortion law passed by the Socialist government this year, in a press statement on the pope’s visit.
The law allows abortions up to the 14th week of pregnancy on demand and up to the 22nd week if there is a risk to the mother’s health or if the foetus has serious problems.
The bishops said that under Spanish law, health was defined as being of “physical, mental and social well-being”.
“If such well-being is considered to be threatened by he who is going to be born, he can be treated like an obstacle to quality of life, whose elimination therefore is taken to be lawful,” they said.
Before blessing the children’s home, the Pope will consecrate the Church of the Sagrada Familia of Holy Family, the emblematic building of architect Antoni Gaudi that has been under construction since 1882.
The Bishop’s Conference said that when the Church was first planned in the late 19th century, the Church “already warned that the natural and Christian family, based on marriage, constitutes the basic cell of society”.
“The State and the Church should give it priority, putting themselves at its service, without passing it over nor supplanting it,” it said.
Gay couples plan to gather and kiss in a so-called flashmob when the Pope arrives to consecrate the Sagrada Familia to protest the Vatican’s opposition to same-sex marriage.
In 2005 Spain passed a law to allow same-sex marriages, making Spain only the third member of the European Union, after Belgium and the Netherlands, to do so. Since then, thousands of gay marriages have been performed in Spain.
Begun in 1882, the still unfinished Sagrada Familia with its spires covered with glazed ceramics dominates Barcelona’s skyline.
This will be Pope Benedict XVI’s second visit to Spain. In 2006 he visited the Mediterranean port of Valencia.