As my Catholic readers are aware, the festivities surrounding World Youth Day in Madrid will begin in a few days, and in fact I already have some friends from this country who are on the ground in the Spanish capital. Pope Benedict XVI will arrive for the final four days of the celebration a week from tomorrow, and as always happens these days groups of malcontents in Spain are already complaining about it – including, predictably but regrettably, a group of priests of the babyboomer variety. Pilgrims and Pontiff will be arriving in a Spain which is, frankly, an economic, political, and social disaster, and one very much in need of a strong cup of coffee – or a swift kick in the behind.
A telling example of the Spain these visitors will be encountering comes from a rather surprising story, which caused quite a furor in the Spanish press this morning. It was claimed by sources that the Ministry of Culture of Morocco wanted Spain to turn over a share of the entrance fee takings to the Alhambra, the legendary Moorish palace in the city of Granada. Understandably, this caused quite a flutter in the mainstream media, as well as on social media and among the commentariat. However, it subsequently came to light that the story was some sort of a hoax, though the person or persons responsible for planting this false story have not yet come forward.
The Alhambra is the single-most visited of all of Spain’s national monuments, and for good reason. Its magnificently decorated reception rooms and lush gardens have inspired international visitors for centuries, including such American luminaries as novelist Washington Irving, who wrote his beautiful “Tales of the Alhambra” during a stay at the palace, and New England painters like Frederick Childe Hassam and John Singer Sargent. Perhaps the most famous part of the building is the “Patio de los Leones” or “Court of the Lions”, which features a fountain supported by sculpted lions, carved by Jewish or Christian craftsmen in about the 11th century.
The reason this absurd report about the Alhambra probably had legs in the Spanish press, at least for a short period of time, is because it would not be at all surprising if the present-day government of Spain were to try to come to some type of an arrangement like this. The socialist premier Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has come under similar pressure to allow Muslims to worship in the Gran Mezquita, the former Grand Mosque of the city of Cordoba, which now houses the city’s cathedral. Fortunately, both the Vatican and the Archdiocese of Cordoba have always refused to allow this, though this has led to extremists attacking the cathedral’s security guards, on at least one occasion.
In the case of the Alhambra, a secular building not owned by the Church, an accommodation such as the subject of the hoax would be perfectly in keeping with Mr. Rodriguez-Zapatero’s milquetoast-revisionist understanding of Spanish history. From reopening the wounds of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930’s to removing religious imagery from government buildings, not to mention his efforts at leftist social engineering, Mr. Rodriguez Zapatero has spent much of his time in office trying to revenge the death of his father, who fought on the losing, communist side in the Civil War. It is also why for months now, large groups known as “the indignants” have been camping out in the squares of major Spanish cities, turning them into cesspools and periodically engaging in battles with the authorities, who seem unwilling to invoke the rule of law to dislodge them. Spain appears to be in one of its typical periods where, as the great Spanish historian Ortega y Gasset once termed it, it is operating as a “spineless” country.
Those who are engaging in the World Youth Day pilgrimage are going to find themselves in an environment where local government authorities, if not openly hostile, are at best unsympathetic, in many cases. Unlike such events in the past, held in places like Germany, Colorado, and Australia, not only will Catholic pilgrims be facing the usual cordons of protestors, such as those who push for legalized infanticide, the ordination of women, and other issues which the Church will never accept, but they will also be facing groups who may wish to attack them physically, simply for being practicing Catholics. I fully expect to read news reports of anarchist-types assaulting pilgrims in broad daylight, as well as reports of how the police seemed powerless to stop such acts of violence.
This is not meant to dissuade those of my readers who will be attending World Youth Day from going to the celebration. I have no doubt that it will be a memorable experience, and one in which many good seeds will be planted for later harvest. However I do ask those of you who are going to keep your wits about you, for you entering what is, unfortunately, dangerous territory – a veritable lion’s den of anti-Catholicism that could easily take on a directly confrontational form. Spain has quite a long way to go to recoup what it has lost under Mr. Rodriguez Zapatero’s regrettable “leadership”, but hopefully the events of next week will be looked back on as marking the beginning of its revival.