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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 September, 2004, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Family values row divides Spain
Katya Adler
BBC, Madrid

Spain's Princess Letizia stands by the statue of Santiago the Apostle beside her husband Prince Felipe
Marriage for life? A recent royal wedding raised spirits in Spain
Spain's Justice Minister has appeared on television to reassure Spaniards that proposed social reforms do not threaten the foundations of society.

Juan Fernando López Aguilar was responding to accusations from the country's Catholic Church.

The Church fears that proposals for a new divorce law signal the erosion of marriage and family values.

But, Mr López Aguilar insists, the concepts of marriage and family are in the best of health in Spain.

'Fast-track divorce'

In his televised address, he said the idea of marriage and family continue to be part of everyday life.

And alarmist statements suggesting otherwise, he said, were entirely misplaced.

The Catholic Church in Spain has accused the government of experimenting with the values of Spanish society after it proposed a new fast-track divorce system last week.

It would slash the time it takes to complete the legal process from two years to as little as 10 days.

The Spanish government says it wants to clear up the huge backlog of cases and allow a quick decision on the shared custody of children.

Opinion polls show the majority of Spaniards welcome the proposal, as well as other social changes - such as legalising abortion and gay marriage - put forward by Spain's new Socialist government and condemned by the country's Catholic Church.

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