MADRID - Tens of thousands of believers poured into central Madrid to celebrate an open-air Roman Catholic mass for the Holy Family on Sunday, just days after the Spanish government agreed to tighten the abortion law.
As chants of "Hallelujah" rang out on loudspeakers, crowds gathered in the city-centre's Plaza de Colon square, many of them urging the government to go even further and implement an outright abortion ban without exceptions.
Under pressure from the Church, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government announced on December 20 it would roll back a 2010 law that had allowed women to opt freely for abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.
The new law, yet to pass parliament where the ruling Popular Party enjoys an absolute majority, would allow abortion only in cases of rape or a threat to the physical or psychological health of the mother.
But as the faithful in Madrid sang hymns and waved banners from regions across Spain and other nations including France and Italy, some of them said the government must take more drastic action.
Angelita Yun, 75, who travelled by bus from Pozoblanco in the southern Spanish province of Cordoba to join the mass, said the new legislation should be improved.
"If my mother had aborted I would not be here. It is bad. Abortion is terrible. It is a crime," she said ahead of the mass, which is being held under the banner: "The family is a privileged place to spread the gospel to all nations".
Her friend, 82-year-old Maria Cardador, agreed.