- (Photo: AP Images / Arturo Rodriguez)
Thousands of Catholics gathered in the capital of Spain to celebrate an open-air mass as the Western European nation's government has promised a stricter abortion law.
Led by Archbishop Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, throngs of Catholics came to Madrid for the worship service. The mass was held on the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph day on the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar.
In his remarks before those gathered at the Plaza de Colon square, Varela stated that families in Spain face a public concept of life as mere "transience."
"Not even the gift of life is understood as being definitive and inviolable and, therefore, neither is the gift of love," said Varela.
The mass was held at a time in Spain when the government, influenced in part by the Roman Catholic Church, is looking to implement a stricter abortion law.
Earlier this month the conservative-leaning Spanish government approved a new abortion law that tightened the restrictions on the procedure in the European country.
The bill would replace a 2010 law passed by then Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, a member of Spain's Socialist party.
The 2010 law eased abortion restrictions, allowing for 16- and 17-year-olds to get abortion sans parental consent and allowing the procedure without restriction for up to 14 weeks' pregnancy.
Zapatero's abortion law stirred the ire of the Catholic Church, which viewed the move as an attack on the traditional family unit.
In the 2011 election, however, the Socialists lost power to the more conservative Popular Party, which currently holds a majority in the nation's parliament.
If the new restrictions are approved, abortions will only be allowed in the event of rape, health of the mother, or "accredited fetal deformities" that may endanger the child's life.
"The bill, which must be approved by parliament, has been vigorously opposed by most opposition parties and women's groups across the country," reported The Guardian.
The Madrid mass had the endorsement of Pope Francis, who in a video address offered his blessing for the occasion.