Pope's youth day draws a million -- and controversies

Madrid, Spain - The weeklong faith extravaganza of World Youth Day is underway now with more than a million young Catholics expected to pour in to Madrid.

Pope Benedict XVI isn't due until Thursday, but the $72 million celebration is still a hot item. And not all for good reasons, according to The New York Times,

... Bitter debates are raging over the festivities and the role of the church in Spanish politics.

... priests, along with dozens of left-leaning groups demanding a secular state and young people who occupied many of Spain's main squares for months to protest the government's handling of the economy, are planning at least one major protest march on Wednesday.

... They suspect that the cost of extra security, of collecting trash and of stress on health systems will add up to millions for taxpayers. For one thing, the pilgrims have been granted an 80 percent discount on public transportation, which some find particularly galling because subway fares just went up by 50 percent.

There is also some tension within the ranks. Religion News Service columnist David Gibson points out Catholics for Choice, the Washington-based abortion rights lobby, will be at WYD campaigning for condom use.

A year ago the pope said he considered it morally acceptable for preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, but the Vatican has clarified repeatedly condoms are not OK for contraception. Gibson says the CfC's program, Condoms4Life, is posting English- and Spanish-language advertisements around Madrid saying,

Thank you, Pope Benedict, for acknowledging that condoms save lives.

But the 30 activists will not distribute condoms...

""Condoms are readily available in Spain," (a spokesman) said -- and that they will be careful not to push their message at Masses or other sacred events.

Still, there's always something irresistable about spectacle. If you want to catch a snippet of WYD excitement -- and a two-minute video on cool stats and history of the event -- check Busted Halo this week.