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Pope Benedict's Spain arrival sparks violent protests (VIDEO)

Spanish protesters demonstrated against the cost of hosting Pope Benedict XVI for a Catholic youth festival during a deepening economic crisis.

Riot police officers clash with demonstrators following a protest against Pope Benedict XVI's visit in Madrid on Wednesday, Aug. 17. Pope Benedict XVI arrived Thursday for a nearly four-day visit to celebrate World Youth Day, and thousands of protesters railing against his visit marched through central Madrid to the central Sol plaza where they have held months of demonstrations against the government's anti-austerity policies.

Arturo Rodriguez/AP

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Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Spain Thursday for a week-long Catholic youth festival in Madrid amid violent protests over public funds being used for the religious event.

While a papal trip to one of the world's most Catholic countries has rarely caused such an outcry, Pope Benedict's visit comes amid the worst economic slump in decades and at a moment of growing unrest among the country's young people.

On Wednesday, at least 11 people were detained in the demonstrations and eight – including three police officers – were injured after protesters clashed with some of the thousands of Catholic visitors in the heart of downtown Madrid.

The pope's visit will cost an estimated 50 million euros ($72 million), according to organizers, and involves closing off much of downtown Madrid. Private companies will contribute a large portion of the money for the event, but Spain will also have to cover many of the expenses. An exact breakdown of the overall economic effect is still unknown.

“It’s absurd how much has been spent. I get my salary cut and the government’s spends a fortune in this,” says Maia, a nurse who didn’t want to give her last name when asked about the antipapal protests she didn't participate in. “It’s fine that the Pope comes, but not if we pay for it.”

While Spain has been a Catholic bastion for centuries, in recent years the Vatican has clashed with governmental leaders here over the country's turn toward secularism as they have legalized gay marriage, banned mandatory religious education in public schools, and eased abortion restrictions.


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