Two writers at the The Guardian enter into the conversation about this year’s World Youth Day and the public reaction that accompanied Pope Benedict’s visit to Madrid.

Andrew Brown asks why the public appears not to recognize the Church’s accomplishment, citing the role of the media in creating a narrow narrative of the event:

If I were a Catholic, I would be feeling rather pissed off with the BBC. The news bulletin in this morning’s Today programme carried an report of the pope’s visit to Madrid that concentrated entirely on the “thousands” of protestors against the visit. It did not once mention World Youth Day, the extraordinary global Catholic gathering that the pope is also visiting. That has brought something like 1.5 million young people from around the world to the Spanish capital to greet him. Whether or not you approve of this, it is important and – above all – newsworthy simply because it is unexpected and goes against the grain of what the media tell us. So why is it not reported?

While Miguel-Anxo Murado turns the discussion to politics, claiming that the protests were perhaps not as successful as it may have appeared:

Even Spain’s reputation as a Catholic country is deceptive, considering its history and many exterior manifestations of popular culture, from Easter processions to the ubiquity of the name “María”. But that is tradition, not belief. In the course of the last 40 years, Spain has rapidly become a secular country and today is no different from other western societies in this respect. Most couples shun religious marriage, with only a minority opting for it. Less than 15% of the population ever attends mass. Same-sex marriages were recently legalised with ample popular support (and that great form of tolerance that is indifference), and polls show that general views on abortion or euthanasia are hardly those of the church.

That’s why those who rant at every preaching of the church miss the point. The church in Spain no longer determines how people live their lives. Catholics may listen respectfully to what the pope has to say about contraception, but they will stick without hesitation to their favourite brand of condoms. Sex, the obsession of both the church and its critics, is not the issue here.

The issue is power, and the Spanish church has an awful lot of it, but it lies somewhere else.Its kingdom is of this world. As a reaction to secularisation, the church has become an American-style political lobby, which no longer shepherds souls but votes. With its radio and TV stations and its vast network of schools and universities, it shapes the conservative political camp. It is its ability to deliver busloads of school children to Madrid that makes rightwing demonstrations possible and massive.