Benedict told reporters that the anticlericalism witnessed now in Spain is reminiscent of the 1930s, when the church suffered a wave of violence and persecution as the country lurched from an unstable democracy to civil war.
Back then, the church claims 4,184 clergy were killed by the government, which blamed the church of supporting fascist Gen. Francisco Franco.
Presently, the church finds itself fighting laws supported by Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's Socialist government that have permit gay marriage, quick divorces and easier abortions.
"In Spain, a strong, aggressive lay mentality, an anticlericalism and secularization has been born as we experienced in the 1930's," Benedict told reporters. "For the future of the faith, it is this meeting — not a confrontation but a meeting — between faith and lay mentality that has a central point in Spanish culture."
The pope said Spain was a particular focus of a new Vatican office to fight such trends worldwide since Spain was key in reviving Christianity in centuries past. Later in Santiago, Benedict told how Pope John Paul II had issued a similar message to Spain and Europe to rediscover their Christian roots during his visit to Santiago in 1982.
After celebrating a Mass in Santiago's main plaza later Saturday, Benedict will be heading to Barcelona, where he will dedicate the famous modernist Sagrada Familia church. The church is a monument to the traditional family — another key theme Benedict is stressing in his Spanish visit.
Despite that up to 200,000 people packed Santiago’s streets curiously awaiting to see the pope's motorcade, featuring his armored white "popemobile," not everyone was excited about the pope's visit.
Riot police swinging truncheons clashed Thursday night with anti-papal protesters in Santiago. Gay groups lined the motorcade route Saturday, kissing as the popemobile drove past.
In Barcelona, a giant "kiss-in" by gays and lesbians is planned for Sunday morning, evidence of the worldly lifestyle that Benedict has pointed out as a danger to the faith.
On Saturday, Benedict called the family the "fundamental cell of society" that forms the basis of faith and life. Church teaching holds that a family is based on the indissoluble marriage between a man and woman — not people of the same sex.
It comes as no surprise that Zapatero, who disagrees with Benedict’s point of view, will only see him moments before his departure on Sunday night. In his place, Crown Prince Felipe greeted Benedict at Santiago's airport Saturday and welcomed him to the country.
The Associated Press Contributed to this Report.