MADRID — Pope Benedict XVI denounced economic structures that put profits ahead of people on Thursday at the start of a trip to recession-hit Spain where the costs of the pontiff's visit have sparked violent protests.
"The economy cannot be measured by the maximum profit but by the common good," Benedict told journalists on the plane taking him to Madrid at the start of a four-day visit centered around the Roman Catholic Church's World Youth Day festivities.
"The economy cannot function only with mercantile self-regulation but needs an ethical reason in order to work for man," he said.
The Spanish economy is struggling to exit a recession which has left one in five unemployed, of which a large proportion are young people. Disaffection over government spending cuts, a sickly economy and a lack of job prospects has spawned a protest movement named "Los Indignados" (Indignant Ones) whose young supporters occupied Madrid's Puerta del Sol square in May.
The costs of 84-year-old Benedict's visit to Spain at a time of economic hardship has reignited protests by Los Indignados and others, including gay and lesbian groups, and demonstrations turned violent on Wednesday evening .
Under the slogan 'nothing for the Pope from my taxes', thousands of marchers made their way from the central Tirso de Molina square to Puerta del Sol where tensions between protesters and pilgrims led to clashes which were broken up by police.
Eight people were hurt and eight were arrested, police and emergency services said.
"It is costing a lot of money for the Spanish state which is going through a bad moment," said 55-year old Rosa Vazquez on the march, holding a placard saying 'Religion is the opium of the people, don't drug yourself with our taxes."
The government has declined to give a figure for the extra security required for the Pope's visit, but it is estimated at around 100 million euros.
Organizers of World Youth Day (WYD), as the international Catholic jamborees are known, say there is no cost to the taxpayer from the papal visit and that it will actually generate revenues for the state coffers.
Benedict was welcomed at Madrid's Barajas airport by Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia as well as by Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
After thanking the WYD organizers, the Pope focused on young people's economic problems, saying it was "wrong and evil" if they were unable to find work.
"Many young people look worriedly to the future, as they search for work, or because they have lost their job or because the one they have is precarious or uncertain," he said.
He also warned of the challenges of consumerism and hedonism, "the widespread trivialization of sexuality, the lack of solidarity and corruption."
Spain's Catholic Church, whose image was stained by its close relationship with General Francisco Franco during his 36-year dictatorship, has clashed with Zapatero's Socialist government over gay rights and abortion.
In 2005, Spain became the third country to legalise gay marriage. The law, promoted by Zapatero despite opposition from the church, allows married gay couples to adopt children.
Thousands of pilgrims lined the Popemobile's route from the airport into Madrid, where the pontiff was to be welcomed by the mayor and young people from around 190 countries.
The culmination of the trip will be a mass on Sunday at the Cuatro Vientos aerodrome near Madrid which is expected to draw more than 2 million people.
© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.