Spain Sees a Slip in the Practice of the Faith

MADRID, Spain, MAY 2, 2003 ( The Spain that John Paul II visits this weekend is increasingly feeling the effects of secularization.

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According to the figures of the State Center of Sociological Research, in 1998 just under 85% of Spaniards said they were Catholic. In 2002 that percentage fell to 80%.

Attendance at Mass also declined. In 1998, 23% of Catholics went to Mass on Sunday; last year the level dropped to 18.1%.

The tendency to give offspring a Catholic education also waned. In the 1996-1997 year, 75.4% sent their children to Catholic schools, but in 1999-2000 the level decreased to 70.5%.

Contributions to the Church on tax returns went from 45.3% in 1997 to 39.6% in 2000.

In this connection, Auxiliary Bishop Juan José Asenjo of Toledo, secretary of the Spanish episcopal conference, explained that «the Pope’s visit will bring with it a new impetus to the Spanish Church,» to concentrate on the new evangelization.

The Holy Father will canonize five new Spanish saints on Sunday. His meeting with youth on Saturday night is expected to attract 300,000 people.

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