(Vatican Radio) Hundreds of thousands of people have rallied in downtown Barcelona to protest against plans of Catalonia's regional government to break away from Spain. Sunday's massive protest came while Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy warned Catalonia that he might suspend its autonomy.
Listen to Stefan Bos' report:
People, many wrapped in Spanish flags, gathered for the largest pro-union showing since the rise of separatist sentiments in Catalonia. They expressed concerned that the leadership of the wealthy northeastern region will decide to leave Spain within days.
Barcelona police said 350,000 people gathered, while march organizers claim as many as 930,000 people turned out. Those numbers resemble the pro-independence rallies that Barcelona has also seen in recent years.
Many in the crowd marched through the city center under the slogan of "Let's recover our common sense!" carrying Spanish, Catalan, and the European Union flags. Some chanted "Don't be fooled, Catalonia is Spain" and called for Catalan president Carles Puigdemont to go to prison.
They march while Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has already warned that any declaration of independence by Catalonia will not affect Spain's unity. He is not ruling out suspending the region's autonomy. And in an interview with Spains influential El País newspaper, Rajoy also rejected any mediation to resolve the crisis.
Sunday's rally comes a week after the Catalan government went ahead and held a referendum on independence, though Spain's top court had suspended the vote and the Spanish government said it was illegal.
Catalan authorities say the "Yes" side won the referendum with 90 percent of the vote. But only 43 percent of the region's 5.3 million eligible voters turned out in polling that was overshadowed by police raids of polling stations on orders to confiscate ballot boxes.
Ahead of Sunday's protests, many also marched in Barcelona for unity, where they urged the central Spanish and Catalan authorities not to forget the people they represent.
"Each one may be in favor of or against independence," a young woman said. "But what we all agree on is that this situation is not acceptable." She added: "It's not possible that every politician only looks at his own side. People must be the priority; you must take them into account."
But Catalonia's President Carles Puigdemont has pledged to push ahead for independence anyway. He says he will address the regional parliament on Tuesday"to report on the current political situation."