Over a million Catholics in Madrid for World Youth Day
Hundreds of thousands of mostly young pilgrims poured into the Spanish capital for a giant open-air mass on Tuesday, at the start of a six day long celebration of their faith.
The Archbishop of Madrid will say the inaugural mass in the central Madrid square of Cibeles, where a huge white stage decorated with an image of Mary and Jesus has been built.
It's estimated that more than a million Roman Catholics from 193 nations are congregating in Madrid for the World Youth Day festival.
Pope Benedict XVI is due to arrive at the event on Thursday.
Some in Spain have condemned the cost of the celebrations, in a country which is experiencing severe cuts in public services to tackle a serious debt problem.
But church officials insist that most of the cost will be covered by the pilgrims themselves, who pay to take part in the event.
The Vatican also suggested that World Youth Day will boost Spain's economy by providing a welcome boost to tourism.
Some 150 groups who oppose the Pope's visit are to stage protests on Wednesday, the day before his arrival.
Among those demonstrating will be associations representing gays and lesbians, feminists, as well as some left-wing political parties.
When Pope Benedict last visited Spain in November 2010, he criticised reforms introduced by the country's Socialist government, including legalising same-sex marriages, making access to abortion easier, and introducing fast-track divorces.
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