Gay rights campaigners in Spain held a protest last night to mark the Pope’s visit to the country.

The Pontiff is in Spain for a four-day visit but critics complain that the country cannot afford the cost of the trip. Estimates suggest the total cost could reach 100 million euros.

Around 5,000 people took to the streets of Madrid last night to protest, with placards condemning his stance on gay rights, the cost of the trip and Spain’s unemployment rates.

Last December, when the Pope visited Barcelona, similar protests were held.

Although around 80 per cent of Spanish people described themselves as Catholic, only 13 per cent attend Mass regularly.

The Pontiff’s visit is part of a drive to boost church attendance. On his last visit, he warned of “aggressive secularism” sweeping the country.

Speaking today for World Youth Day, he urged young people not to be “ashamed” of their faith.

He said: “With all my heart, I say again to you young people: let nothing and no one take away your peace; do not be ashamed of the Lord.”

He added that “the young followers of Jesus must be aided to remain firm in the faith and to embrace the beautiful adventure of proclaiming it and witnessing to it openly with their lives”.

When the Pope visited the UK last September, 20,000 people gathered in central London with banners and blown-up condoms to protest against his response to the child abuse scandal, his homophobic comments about gay relationships and his claims that condoms spread rather than prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.