Barcelona, Spain – Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to Spain was not a lost cause. In his second visit to Land of La Furia Roja, the pope pushed back against the increasing securalism in the world and defended his religion from critics Sunday as he dedicated the Sagrada Familia church.
“This is the great task before us: to show everyone that God is a God of peace not of violence, of freedom not of coercion, of harmony not of discord,” he said during the Sunday mass. “I consider that the dedication of this church of the Sagrada Familia is an event of great importance, at a time in which man claims to be able to build his life without God, as if God had nothing to say to him,” added the 83 year old pope.
Pope Benedict XVI, the oldest person to have been elected Pope since Pope Clement XII, also spoke of traditional family and the importance of keeping it “pure”. “The generous and indissoluble love of a man and a woman is the effective context and foundation of human life in its gestation, birth, growth and natural end,” he said. His speech was still a delicate subject especially after the government had just legalized same-sex marriage.
The visit also highlights the Christianity in the person of Antoni Gaudi. The pope praised Gaudi for “overcoming the division between human consciousness and Christian consciousness, between living in this temporal world and being open to eternal life” in designing the Sagrada Familia church, a still-unfinished emblem of the Spanish city of Barcelona.
After more than 100 years, the Sagrada Familia, or “holy family,” church, is still under construction.
Gaudi, a Catalan architect, died in 1926. He was only able to see one tower and most of one facade built. He originally set out to build 18 towers for the church — 12 for the apostles, four for the evangelists, one for the Virgin Mary and the tallest for Jesus. Today, only eight are finished.
“Gaudi did this not with words but with stones, lines, planes and points. Indeed, beauty is one of mankind’s greatest needs,” Benedict said, speaking in Spanish. “Beauty also reveals God because, like him, a work of beauty is pure gratuity; it calls us to freedom and draws us away from selfishness,” he added.
Crowds filled in the Sagrada Familia itself during the Mass but the overflow area was not. Spain’s King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia were present for the occasion. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, a Socialist, did not attend. He is out of the country on an unannounced visit to Afghanistan. According to reports, Zapatero will meet the pope briefly at Barcelona’s airport at the end of the pope’s visit.
Spain, a historically Catholic country, is currently experiencing a reverse catholicism. A recent government survey showed that only two in 10 Catholic Spanish regularly attend mass. The pope considers the traditional religion of the country to be under threat.
Pope Benedict XVI was born Joseph Alois Ratzinger. He was born on April 16, 1927 in Marktl, Bavaria, Germany.