MADRID — Protesters prepared to take to Madrid’s streets Wednesday to decry the cost of a rock festival-style, million-strong youth party for Pope Benedict XVI in the midst of an economic crisis.

On the eve of the 84-year-old pontiff’s arrival in the Spanish capital to celebrate lavish World Youth Day events, more than 100 groups opposed to the visit are protesting.

The joint march Wednesday evening is for many causes, including a change in the Church’s attitude to gay rights and the separation of Church and state.

But the outcry that has struck a chord for many Spaniards — including some priests — is over the 50.5-million-euro ($73 million) price tag, excluding the cost of police and security, of the Madrid celebrations.

Church organisers of the event say most of the cost will be covered by a registration fee from the pilgrims, and the celebration will be a massive tourist boost for Spain.

But for many the party is galling at a time that Spain’s economy is faltering, the government is making painful cuts and unemployment is a towering 20.89 percent. For those under 25, it is over 45 percent.